It will take some more years until the U5 actually reaches the Europaviertel. But an important step in the construction of the new underground tunnel has now been taken with the celebration of the 80 metre long tunnel drilling machine. This impressive machine will be digging its way through Frankfurt's underground from September onwards. The machine was christened during a ceremony on Monday in the presence of Tarek Al-Wazir, Hesse's State Minister for Economic Affairs, Energy, Transport and Housing, Peter Feldmann, Frankfurt's Lord Mayor, Klaus Oesterling, Frankfurt's Head of Transport and Klaus Oesterling, the managing directors of Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main (VGF), Stadtbahn Europaviertel Projektbaugesellschaft (SBEV) and PORR GmbH.
The tunnelling machine was christened "Eva", which emerged from a public name competition in 2018 and stands for "Europaviertel anbinden". Tunnel patron, whose names are given to the tunnels, is Franziska Reichenbacher, journalist and "Lottofee". According to old miner tradition, the tunnel patron is the earthly representative of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners and miners.
Frankfurt is one of the cities with the highest number of commuters and Minister of State Tarek-Al-Wazir knows: "This city is the centre of the dynamic Rhine-Main metropolitan region. Since 1968, the subway has developed into the backbone of public transport and the city would be inconceivable without it. Their efficiency must be maintained by modernising and repairing existing installations and extended by building new lines. The latter, which has been emphatically supported by the state of Hesse and the federal government with 157 million euros, is happening in a very impressive way with the underground construction in the centre of Frankfurt."
The extension of the U5 beyond the main railway station will connect a growing part of the city to the local transport network of the city and thus further stimulate it. For Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann, this is an important step towards making Frankfurt mobile in the future as well: "With the decision to connect the Europaviertel to the public transport network with an efficient underground, we made a trend-setting decision in 2012. After the ground-breaking ceremony in late summer 2017, the next milestone follows with the start of drilling by the tunnel drilling machine. The people who live and work here or will do so in the future will find a modern, fast, public means of transport with the U5 extended to the Europaviertel from 2024, as they can expect from a city like Frankfurt."
During driving, eight miners per shift work on the machine and twelve miners in logistics. The team consists of a total of 60 miners. "With all the requirements that such a large construction site in the middle of the city means, the most important thing remains: that nothing and nothing happens to anyone during the construction work," says tunnel patron Reichenbacher. "This is why all the miners who will be building the new tunnel in the coming months at depths of up to 25 metres in the Frankfurt underground will be 'lucky'.
The construction project comprises a 2.7-kilometre section with a total of four stations. In future, the route will lead from the underground station "Güterplatz" via a ramp to the surface and in the middle of the Europa-Allee further west on a lawn track. The "Emser Brücke", "Europagarten" and "Wohnpark" stations will be built on the surface after the tunnels have been constructed.
"A public transport network with modern vehicles and stations, a clever timetable and attractive services is a very important location criterion for a city and its region. Frankfurt and the Rhine-Main region are dependent on functioning public transport, because only with it - meaningfully linked to other sustainable modes of transport - can we guarantee mobility, which will continue to be one of the arteries of our region in the future," says Klaus Oesterling, Head of Transport.
"If we want to combine climate protection with modern, efficient urban mobility - which we have had so far, but will have to do more than ever - there is no way around public transport. And that is the sustainable, electric public transport that municipal transport companies in Frankfurt have been offering since 1884. Expansion of the network, maintenance of existing infrastructure, continued renewal and expansion of the vehicle fleet are VGF's core business and essential, future-proof tasks for the city," adds Michael Rüffer, Technical Director of VGF.
The Frankfurt tunnel drilling machine opens two tunnels, each about 850 metres long, and begins with the south tunnel. "Eva" drives through the low station Güterplatz and drills her way between Hohenstaufenstraße and Mainzer Landstraße up to three meters in front of the sealing construction at the existing building under the Platz der Republik. The machine is then dismantled in parts and returned to its starting point through the previously constructed tunnel. After reconstruction, the machine is sent back on its journey to drill the second almost parallel tunnel tube. The expansion of the U5 - and thus the development of the Europaviertel with a subway - will be one of the most important infrastructure projects in Frankfurt for years to come. For the VGF, it is a personnel and technical challenge that we are facing and which we can use to demonstrate the efficiency of the urban transport company. Because when it comes to implementing a modern and sustainable transport policy, the VGF is an efficient and reliable partner for the city," says Thomas Wissgott, Managing Director of the VGF and Director of Labor Relations. The huge tunnel drilling machine resembles an underground factory. The cutting wheel is located at the front of the head. At "Eva" it has a diameter of 7.10 meters. This cutting wheel rotates in front of an approximately 9.20 metre long steel cylinder, also known as a shield, and works its way through the soil with the aid of around 100 peeling knives and cutting rollers. The working face, the soil in the area of the cutting wheel, is supported by the material that has already been removed - the soil slurry. This counteracts external forces and prevents the uncontrolled collapse of the soil. The excavated soil is conveyed out of the machine via a screw conveyor and conveyor belt. Concrete segments, so-called segments, are installed directly behind the shield in a ring shape. They form the tunnel walls. The machine presses itself against the last segment ring with the aid of hydraulic presses. The implementation of this ambitious project is in the hands of a consortium (ARGE): ARGE U5 Europaviertel, consisting of PORR Deutschland GmbH and Stump Spezialtiefbau GmbH. It is responsible for the structural work of the underground station and the construction of the underground section. "We applied for this contract because we were able to contribute all facets of our competence and expertise, which we have acquired not only nationally but also internationally through many years of experience. As with any other inner-city metro project, we face the special challenges. The road has not been easy so far, but what distinguishes us is the competence, endurance and creativity of our employees, which made it possible to reach this milestone", says Hans Wenkenbach, COO of Porr AG.
The tunnel work runs around the clock seven days a week. The duration of the advance is about one year.