Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and FS’ Infrastructure Business Unit, Naples-Bari HS/HC line: the Aurora tunnel boring machine begins excavations for the Grottaminarda tunnel

The worksite will operate 24 hours a day for five months. Over 100 highly specialised people have been hired. The works are part of the “Cantieri Parlanti” project that gives voice to Strategic Works all throughout Italy.

Naples, 8 August 2023

Aurora, the 100-metre-long mechanical mole with 18 motors and a total of 6.3 Megawatts, began excavating the Grottaminarda tunnel this morning, in the province of Avellino along the Apice-Hirpinia section of the new Naples-Bari High Speed/High Capacity Line.

The works of the FS Group’s Infrastructure Business Unit, with Rete Ferroviaria Italiana commissioning the project and Italferr as construction manager, are carried out by the Webuild Group through the Hirpinia AV Consortium.

The works under the Cantieri Parlanti Project are carried out by the FS Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, to transparently given an account of the activities and aims of the project through public initiatives, Info Points and a page dedicated to the Strategic Projetc.

The Grottaminarda worksite

The Grottaminarda tunnel, at approximately 2 kilometres long, is the first of three tunnels planned along the Apice-Hirpinia section at 18 kilometres long, of which 12 kilometres are underground. The mechanical mole, named Aurora, consists of a rotating head with a diameter of approximately 12.5 metres. The milling site will be continuously active for about five months, with a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week work cycle and an expected advancement of some 16 metres per day. In addition, at the same time as the excavation progresses, a tunnel lining ring is being constructed, set to consist of nine prefabricated segments, each at 55 centimetres thick and 1.80 metres long. The use of mechanised excavation brings important advantages to the entire worksite system, allowing the Grottaminarda and Melito tunnels to be dug out in sequence from a single worksite at the Bari-side entrance, greatly reducing the impact of intermediate worksites within the territory. Over 100 highly specialised people, divided into 4 teams, are employed to ensure continuous excavation. Works on the line involve an investment of approximately 628 million euro.

The new HS/HC Naples-Bari line project

The new HS/HC Naples-Bari line forms an integral part of the European TEN-T Scandinavia-Mediterranean Railway Corridor and represents the first and most advanced project that the FS Group’s Infrastructure Business Unit is undertaking to upgrade the railway network in Southern Italy. This new infrastructure, for which Rete Ferroviaria Italiana is the client and Italferr is responsible for the preliminary and final design, calls for a total investment of 5.8 billion euro, also financed with funds from the PNRR (Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan). Its completion by 2027 will speed up the direct transversal connection between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic Sea, whilst bettering the connections between Puglia and the innermost provinces of Campania with the HS/HC Milan-Rome-Naples line.

Progress and benefits of the project

As of August 2022, all worksites for the new HS/HC Naples-Bari line are in operation. The commissarial management activities facilitated an acceleration of the works, in view of the 2017 completion of the first two interventions along the route: the Naples/Afragola interchange junction and the Bovino-Cervaro lot. With the first activation phase for Cancello-Frasso Telesino, a direct connection between Naples and Bari in 2 hours and 40 minutes will be possible by 2024. The project is already a driver of development for the area and for job creation. Indeed, some 5,000 people are involved in the project, including engineers, technicians and labourers, bolstered by a supply chain of 2,000 companies including subcontractors and suppliers.

The Aurora tunnel boring machine begins excavations for the Grottaminarda tunnel
Start excavations for the Grottaminarda tunnel
The Aurora begins excavations for the Grottaminarda tunnel