We are interested in cooperation with Saint Petersburg specialists”

In May, 2014, Danish Tunnelling Society representatives and ITA President Soren Eskesen visited the city of Saint Petersburg.

ITA is one of the biggest and well-known organizations related to tunneling. Head of ITA visited Saint Petersburg by invitation of Association of Underground Builders CEO Sergei Alpatov, who represents Russian specialists in Nordic Forum (Association of countries of Northern Europe, Russian and Canada within ITA). 

Association of Underground Builders members are the companies, involved into metro construction, utility lines construction with trenchless technologies, tunneling, other underground structures construction. Association is interested in collaboration with foreign specialists and ITA President’s visit is a major step for development of international working relationship regarding underground construction.

Undergroundexpert.info reporter talked to Mr. Eskesen during his visit to Russia

- Mr. Eskesen, what are the main purposes for your visit?

-  During Nordic Forum meeting in Copenhagen in October 2013, Sergei Alpatov presented the project of one of the Saint Petersburg metro station construction. We got interested in the process of implementation and decided to visit the construction site with a technical tour to find out the new technical issues Russian specialists are to solve at the moment. I hope this visit will be a start of a long-term collaboration regarding underground construction.  

- What is your opinion on the level of Saint Petersburg metro development? What are the differences in comparison with Copenhagen’s metro?  

-  We are quite impressed. Metro stations are beautifully decorated and we found several design decisions being very interesting, with all this space granting passengers more comfortable travelling without any hints of claustrophobic moods.

Metro of Copenhagen is far much younger than Saint Petersburg’s metro and our designers tried to create spacious stations for maximum comfort underground. This can be a similarity for our metro systems.  
As for differences, there are safety doors made of glass along all the stations in Copenhagen, securing no passenger could fall on the rails.  Running tunnels between stations are shorter, as in Copenhagen we are able to construct metro at the depths of 20-40 m. 

- Are Copenhagen geological conditions more favourable for underground construction than Saint Petersburg’s?

- Like Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen has geology impacted by glaciers. Thixotropic soils are at the depth of 15-20 m, deeper there is the Copenhagen Limestone Formation.  It has quite good resistance qualities, although contains some hard soils, not very suitable for tunneling in. 

This extends the time of project’s implementation. Underground part of Copenhagen contains paleo-valleys, but not in such a quantity as Saint Petersburg has them, still it affects the design plans. Also the challenges of preserving historical buildings which stand on the wooden piles are quite important as well. But in general Copenhagen’s geological conditions are more favourable.     

-  Could you please tell a few words about ITA committee ITACUS participation in The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction relating to the “UN-ISDN Resilient City Campaign”?

-  As a part of ITA, ITACUS was created to address underground construction questions exclusively.  This committee participates in UN program “Resilient City” and also actively develops collaboration with professional associations related to planning, design and construction of underground structures around the world. One of ITACUS, primary goals is a promotional work, demonstration benefits of underground structures while facing natural disasters.
ITA participates in UN program UNEP. In May I visited Abu-Dhabi to make some preparation for Climate Summit in September that will take place in New York. 

As I have already mentioned, one of the main activities for ITACUS is to promote the idea of comprehensive underground space use and its acceptance by local authorities and decision makers.

At present urban underground urbanization is a vital condition for development of the metropolis, securing comfort and safety.

That is why international attention recently has been drawn to the problems of sustainable underground space use. In particular, in April in Medellin (Columbia) World Urban Forum took place organized by UN.

The problems of the modern cities like high density, rapid urbanization, traffic issues, etc. were discussed during the event. ITACUS participates in such events, promoting the ideas of underground development for solving ecological and transport problems.

- What methods does ITA use to promote metro construction and integrated underground space use?  

-  Development of the idea of comprehensive underground space use could be promoted while ITA interacts with authorities and mass media.  We published three White papers, pointing out our aims and long-term plans.

ITA website consists of two equal ranking parts: for ITA members and for publicity, aiming to promote the concept of underground urban urbanization, that is why it is called “why go underground”.  This section refers to relevant information on underground construction, which can be helpful for decision makers.

ITA cooperates with media worldwide, has a history of working relationships with large media in France and in Great Britain. Thus, we have possibilities to inform specialists and different social groups on state-of-art technologies and advanced projects related to underground construction as well as announce and report on ITA activities.

- How does ITA communicate with Nordic countries, members of Nordic Forum? What are the special aspects of communicating in Nordic Forum?

- Nordic Forum consolidates countries of the Northern Europe, Canada and Russia assisting better information exchange between specialists working in quite similar at least climate conditions. Nordic Forum member’s overview different projects and new practices, as well as issues related to legislation and city planning. Specialists exchange information and consider possibilities of joint implementation of ideas. 

Russia and Canada joined the Nordic Forum in 2013.  In 2013 Nordic Forum meetings took place in Geneva at WTC in June and in Copenhagen half a year later.

Danish Tunnelling Society organized in 2014 the Nordic Forum meeting during WTC in Brazil.  And the next meeting is scheduled to take place in Vancouver, Canada during TAC 2014, organized by Canadian Tunnelling Society in October.  I would be pleased if there would be reports of Russian specialists and world society would have the opportunity to get acquainted with Russian achievements.  

- 15th World Conference ACUUS 2016 will take place in Saint Petersburg in 2016. Do you plane to take part in the event? What are the primary topics to be discussed during the conference?  

- I hope to be able to present at the Conference. As for the main topics, I believe questions related to geo-engineering and 3D modeling should be added to the program. Taking into consideration their relevance, I would recommend drawing maximum attention to the matters; possibly it is worth to make a special section.

- Mr. Eskesen, how would you estimate the results of your visit to Saint Petersburg?

-  We enjoyed our visit; there was a great weather and welcoming atmosphere.  The discussion we had with Russian specialists was of a great interest and we were impressed with the achievements of Metrostroy specialists, especially considering difficult geological conditions they have to work with. 

We found it interesting how the technologies were adapted to suit these conditions; they do it for the first time and got some unique practices of it.  I think that cooperation between Russia and ITA-members countries could be beneficial to all parties.