H53 Pfons-Brenner site: arrival of the first parts of Wilma

‘H53 Pfons-Brenner’ is the largest and southernmost construction site in the Austrian project area. And this is where the first components of Wilma have arrived, over the past few days. And many other new and interesting events are planned during the course of the year.


‘H53 Pfons-Brenner’ is the largest and southernmost construction site in the Austrian project area. Here, during this winter, excavation began on the southward tunnels using the Drill&Blast method according to the ‘NATM’ (New Austrian Tunnelling Method) system. This excavation work southwards will be decisive in bringing Austria even closer to Italy.


In the neighbouring lot in Italy, known as ‘H61 Mules 2-3’, TBM Serena excavated a stretch of the exploratory tunnel all the way to the Brenner Pass, which was reached at the end of 2021. The exploratory tunnel breakthrough at Brenner with the excavation works arriving from Austria is expected at the end of this year. This will be a historic achievement as there will be, for the first time, a seamless connection between Italy and Austria.


Wilma and Olga will soon start excavating northwards


But that’s not all our news. The southwards excavations are being carried out using drilling and blasting, but for the excavation works northward, the tunnel boring machines named ‘Wilma’ and ‘Olga’ will come into play.


The first components of TBM Wilma, whose commissioning took place on 7 March last, have reached the construction site in the past few days. Her sister Olga is expected during the coming week. In September, when the transport and assembly of the components of the two TBMs is completed, the mechanised excavation northwards of both the west tunnel (Wilma) and the east tunnel (Olga) can begin.


Michael Knapp, formerly the project manager for the ‘H52 Hochstegen’ lot, has enthusiastically accepted this new challenge. “At the end of last year, we successfully concluded the work in the Hochstegen lot, and it is extremely satisfying to see how efficiently the new 'H53 Pfons-Brenner' lot is progressing in the first months of 2024. There are many challenges, from the NATM excavation to the tunnel boring machines and the transport of the tubbing ring segments by rail, but we are confident that everything will go according to plan, sustainably and efficiently.”


Tubbing ring segment transport by rail: a choice for environmental sustainability


The Wilma and Olga TBMs, in addition to carrying out mechanised excavation in the west and east line tunnels, will install tubbing ring segments for the final lining of the tunnels. These precast concrete elements, due to the limited space available, cannot be produced directly on the construction site as is done at the neighbouring ‘H41 Sill-Pfons Gorge’ construction site. However, rail transport directly from Bavaria makes it possible to avoid a significant volume of road transports, totalling approximately 40,000.


All this greatly benefits the local population, who are now watching the progress of the BBT work with great interest.


Last Thursday, 14 March, an information evening organised at the 'Wipptalcenter' in Steinach am Brenner offered an important opportunity, open to all citizens, to learn more about many aspects of the Brenner Base Tunnel project and learn about future developments. Many people jumped at the chance to learn more about a railway project that will one day enable them to travel more sustainably and quickly across the Alps.