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Tunnel Nation

You only need one look at Norway’s topography to realise that building infrastructure in this stretched out country poses enormous difficulties. Yet the landscape also holds great opportunity. Challenged by high mountains, long fjords and steep valleys, engineers have found ways of connecting communities. In the beginning of June, the annual World Tunnel Congress gathered tunnel enthusiasts, this time in Bergen.

Today, Norway has over 1100 road tunnels, over 30 of them being under sea level. According to CNN, two of the world’s most spectacular tunnels are located in Norway, Spiralen in Drammen and Lærdalstunnelen in Western Norway. The latter is also the world’s longest road tunnel with its 24 509 metres.

An ongoing project is to build the 14 kilometer long and 219 metres deep twin-tube tunnel Ryfast. When completed in 2019, it will be the world’s longest sub-sea road tunnel. The next big challenge is to cross Sognefjorden; 4080 metres wide and 1250 metres deep. If this is done, then any fjord in Norway can be crossed. One of the possibility for crossing Sognefjorden is a submerged floating tunnel (see the video).

On 14th June, an Indian delegation, led by Tunnelling Association of India, had a meeting with the Norwegian Tunnelling Society and Norwegian Tunnel Safety Cluster. The meeting took place at Innovation Norway's office in Bergen during the World Tunnelling Congress days in Bergen. The Indian side comprised of officials from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Surface Transport and Highways, Border Roads Organization and Metro Rail. Ideas and potential areas of cooperation in the tunnelling and underground works were exchanged. The Indian side discussed the potential of tunneling in India. This is mainly in the areas of hydropower, metro rail and highways. Cities having a population of 2 million and above should have metro rail, and at the moment, around 50 Indian cities are coming up with metro rail.

The Indian delegation also pitched for hosting World Tunnelling Congress in India in 2020 and sought cooperation from the Norwegian side.

This is not the first time Norway and India have cooperated in this field. In 2015, a group of 20 engineers and officers from Indian Railways visited Norway to get training in Norwegian Tunneling Technology (NMT). India, with its hilly and mountainous regions, faces many of the same challenges as Norway. NMT is considered cost effective, efficient and faster in construction in comparison to other methods.