ATHENS – The World Tunnel Congress 2023 (WTC) takes place May 12-18 at the Megaron Athens International Conference Center (MAICC) in Athens.
Tunneling illustrates the progress of a society and, in particular, the great technical and economic power of certain civilizations. The host country of the WTC, Greece, is a prime example with ancient Greek tunneling, an innovative development that has continued to permeate the layout of cities in the country until the most recent major works today. Tunneling in Greece dates back at least to 2000 BC when many tunnels were excavated for the exploitation of the minerals. Lavrion silver mines, which are located near Athens, were used during the classical era to finance the formidable navy employed to defeat the Persians in the naval battle of Salamis and helped spawn the Athenian empire of the Classical era. Other, well-known ancient mines are located in Thassos and Sifnos islands of the Aegean Sea.
One of the remarkable accomplishments of this era is the Eupalinos Tunnel, which is regarded as one of the most significant engineering feats of antiquity. The tunnel, located on the island of Samos in Greece, spans 1036m and was constructed in the 6th century BC as an aqueduct. The Eupalinos Tunnel stands as a remarkable engineering achievement, as it was the first time in history that such a project had been undertaken with no similar reference. The engineer Eupalinos achieved the unprecedented feat of digging a tunnel under a mountain by simultaneously excavating from two portals diametrically opposite to each other, and through the use of mathematics and geometry, he managed to connect the two drives at the midpoint without any deviation.
Athens, a representative city of the expansion of the underground space
Athens serves as the hub for economic, financial, industrial, political, and cultural activity in Greece. The city’s underground network has undergone substantial expansion in recent years, and this development is now rapidly accelerating.
In October of last year, the Metro Line 3 Extension Project to Piraeus was successfully completed with the opening of the last three new stations: Maniatika, Piraeus, and Dimotiko Theatro. The project included the construction of a total of 7.6 km long twin-track running tunnel, six new modern stations, and seven ventilation shafts. This expansion marks one of the most significant developments for the greater Athens and Piraeus areas in decades.
Since then, numerous expansion projects for the capital’s Metro system have been announced, serving as a perfect example of its growth. A Metro network with over 110 stations is planned for Athens, including 35 new stations across nine extensions that aim to improve urban transport and connect the Metro network to densely populated areas, expand the network, and create new growth poles in the capital. With these extensions, Athens is aiming to exceed 100 stations on its network.
In early 2022, tenders were announced for 10 major new projects, which will be launched during the first semester of 2023 by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. This package of projects, valued at almost 1.6 billion euros, will add to the already extensive portfolio of large-scale projects, illustrating the high level of activity related to the country’s infrastructure and underground developments. During the WTC, attendees will have the opportunity to visit construction sites, including those for the new Metro Line 4.