WTC 2017 and the 43rd General Assembly of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA) in Bergen, Norway had a family reunion feel about it. For the third time, following 1974 and 1999, the Norwegian Tunnelling Society (NFF), made preparations and welcomed the ITA and international delegates to the annual gathering of professionals and the ExCo, Committees and Working Groups of the ITA.
WTC2017 proceedings in action
His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway opened the congress proceedings at the Grieg Concert Hall in Bergen and toured a sold out hall of exhibitors. In his opening address, the Crown Prince highlighted the vital importance of tunnels for connectivity across Norway, connecting cities by road and rail through the mountains and providing fixed links between islands beneath the fjords along the country’s spectacular coastline.
In his keynote to the 1,500 strong delegation ITA President Tarcisio Celestino of Brazil documented the connection of Norway with the foundation and continuing development of the Association and of the international tunnelling profession. It was in Oslo in 1974 that the original articles of association were discussed and agreed by representatives of the first member nation societies of the ITA. A slide of the original copy of signatures at that first meeting was presented and two of those original delegates were in the WTC2017 opening ceremony audience – Dr Einar Broch of Norway who was also President of the ITA from 1986 – 1989, and Willie De Lathauwer of Belgium who has attended almost every ITA Congress and General Assembly since the first in Washington DC in the USA in 1975.
President Celestino also recalled studying at the University of California at Berkeley with reknowned Norwegian Professor and tunneller Tor Brekke. Crown Prince Haakon also studied at UC Berkeley in 1996 for a BA in political science.
For TunnelTalk, the WTC2017 Norway experience began in Oslo and on the pre-conference visit to the construction site of the Follo Line railway tunnel project between Oslo and Ski where four Herrenknecht TBMs are excavating the twin running tunnels through hard Norwegian granite from a central adit. In a comprehensive and well organised trip, international visitors were hosted by representatives of the project owner Bane Nor and of the Spanish-Italian JV contractor Acciona-Ghella and with a tour of the onsite segmental lining casing yard as well as into the heading and onto the first of the four TBMs launched.
The project was also well represented in the technical programme of the Congress with four papers discussing various aspects of its development and advance. It was also included in the ITA Open Session on Tuesday morning when the public acceptance of major infrastructure was discussed in detail.
Papers selected for oral presentation in the technical sessions of the Congress were of a particularly high standard and attracted interesting questions and comments from the audience. Download the PDF for a schedule of the Congress proceedings and list of the papers presented.
Oral presentations were also supported by active and successful poster sessions that provided authors the opportunity to present their papers to interested visitors.
Three of the afternoon sessions on Tuesday were hosted by ITA Committees. The session of papers concerning the development of underground space was hosted by ITACUS; there was a session about new innovations and the introduction of new products hosted by ITAtech and a session about the operantional safety of underground public infrastructure was hosted by ITACOSUF.
During the ITA General Assembly proceedings, the results of important voting rounds were announced.
New ExCo Members
From among eight candidates for three posts on the Executive Council, Lars Babendererde of Member Nation Germany, Arnold Dix of Member Nation Australia, and Randy Essex of Member Nation USA were elected to service on the ExCo for the next three years.
New Member Nation and Member Nation recognition
Nigeria was formally welcomed as a new Member Nation to the ITA family with Abidemi Agwor recognised as the President and Member Nation representative of TAN, the Tunnelling Association of Nigeria. Member Nation Nepal was also presented with special recognition for its activities to advance the development of tunnels and the education of professional tunnelling engineers and technicians in the Himalayan mountain kingdom.
During the General Assembly, the ITA also recognised Martin Herrenknecht for his continuing contributions to the work of ITAtech.
The ITA Young Members Group, which was formed officially at the ITA General Assembly 2014 in Iguassu Falls, Brazil, held its general meeting on Wednesday morning. Under the current Chair Sindre Log of Norway, the Group attracted 150 under 35 year-old professionals of which a third were young women. Of the eight members of the ITAym Group organising committee, four are young women professionals.
The activities of the thirteen active Working Groups of the ITA progressed during the Congress and two new reports were released. Working Group 17 on Long Tunnels at Great Depth released a report on TBM excavation of long and deep tunnels under difficult rock conditions and Working Group 6 on Maintenance and Report published its report on Structural fire protection for road tunnels. PDF copies of these reports and all reports by the ITA Working Groups are available for free download on the ITA website.
As a last item of business on the agenda for the 43rd ITA General Assembly, the voting round to select the host for the WTC and 46th General Assembly was success for Member Nation Malaysia and against a very strong rival bid from Member Nation Australia for Melbourne and with Member Nation India also presented a bid. Both India and Australia has hosted the ITA and WTC in the past and for Malaysia with will be its first time with the event planned for staging in the national capital Kuala Lumpur. The proposal for the winning bid is available as a pdf download.
Along with the attending technical sessions and visiting a packed exhibition hall, there were fabulously enjoyable social events to attend. The WTC reception on Sunday evening was a hubbub of greetings and laughter and chat. On Monday evening TunnelTalk was hosted by Geo-Data Consult of Austria at the ITAtech reception and meal, an evening that included a ferry trip along the coastline to the spectacular venue. Then on Tuesday evening it was a funicular ride to the top of a hill for a reception by the three bidding Member Nations for the WTC2020 and on Wednesday night, fun was had by all at the event’s Gala Dinner.
It was a wonderful Congress. The mood was relaxed and friendly and helpful. This mood was underpinned by the efficient and well-prepared management of the event by the team of organisers and was present from the very start when during his welcome in the Opening Ceremony on Monday morning, Frode Nilsen, Chair of the Norwegian Tunnelling Society, broke into song and had all Norwegians joining in on the choruses of the traditional folk song of Norwegian underground workers.
Even initial fears by exhibitors that few would visit the exhibition hall in the underground parking garage of the Grieg Concert Hall were allayed with coffee and lunch stations located in the exhibition hall and easy access provided via well signposted accesses into the hall. The need for umbrellas at the ready during the first days also failed to dampen spirits with a burst of warm sunshine on Wednesday adding to the feel-good factor.
In the closing ceremony, President Nilsen of NFF summed up the mood when he said that all good things must come to an end and there were warm rounds of applause for all the organisers, event committee members, volunteers, and staff of First United, the appointed professional congress organizer.
In the traditional manner, Heidi Berg as Director of the WTC2017 in Bergen handed the ITA flag to Eng. Rayed Al Arashi, a member of the organising board of WTC2018 which will be hosted by the Society of Engineers of the United Arab Emirates in Dubai in April 20-26 next year.
We at TunnelTalk look forward to meeting all our ITA friends and colleagues in Dubai next year and leave Bergen with a thank you to the support we received especially from Harald Riisnaes, Managing Director of First United and Diane Loth of the ITA media relations department in leading up to and during WTC2017 and with happy memories of a very fruitful, interesting, productive and enjoyable time in Bergen.