Tunnelling: Contractors see increase in work

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By Bernadette Ballantyne  www.meed.com

Rail schemes are the main reason for the surge in regional tunnelling activity, but water and road projects are also keeping firms busy.

From the wastewater systems of Abu Dhabi and Jeddah to the planned Doha metro and railways through the UAE and Oman, the region’s tunnelling industry is experiencing major growth in terms of project opportunities.

Although the impact of the financial downturn persists, with mainly schemes in the region slowed, cancelled or on hold, governments are investing in infrastructure to support economic growth. In many cases, this means improving public and freight transport, along with water and sanitation services.

Congested cities in the Gulf

However, delivering major projects in the Gulf’s expanding cities increasingly requires the use of underground space. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there are $279bn-worth of schemes with a tunnelling element currently planned or under way in the Middle East, of which $192bn are in the GCC.

“The big thing is transportation, followed by water,” says Paul Groves, the UAE-based head of UK consultant Atkins’ tunnelling network group.

More than 80 per cent of projects with a tunnelling element are in the transport sector and many of these are metro schemes. Tehran, Dubai and Cairo have already delivered their metro networks and are now expanding them, while Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Doha, Kuwait and Riyadh are planning their first projects. More info