At the start of the year Austrian heavy transport specialist Felbermayr began transporting two new tunnel boring machines (TBM) to assist with the construction of the world’s longest underground tunnel at the Brenner Pass.

A great deal of logistical effort was required to drive the components - weighing up to 270 tonnes - through the narrow tunnel to the assembly caverns.

Felbermayr transported two huge tunnel boring machines for the construction of the 55 km Brenner Base Tunnel.

Driving the components, sometimes through steep terrain and narrow tunnels, to the assembly caverns and assembling them on site proved to be a complex challenge. The stretch from the temporary construction site to the assembly caverns was just under 6 km long, but the route was tough going. It ran entirely in tunnels, 3 km of which had a gradient of up to 12 percent. Moreover, the tracks in the mountains were wet, making traction difficult. The components themselves weighed up to 270 tonnes.

“We used the self-propelled SPMT units from Scheuerle with six, 10 or 12 axles for these transports; 12 were used for the largest piece weights of 270 tonnes each for the two drives with a diameter of 7.8 m,” said project manager Markus Meusburger, departmental manager of Felbermayr’s transport and lifting technology division in Lauterach. These drives had been pre-assembled on the factory floor. “With a total weight of almost 300 tonnes and the steep gradient, we reached the mathematical limit of the brakes, so in order to safely carry out these transports nonetheless, we used a four-axle heavy-duty tractor as an additional braking vehicle. It took us roughly three hours to cover the first 3 km with the steep gradient, and five hours to complete the entire route.”

Each TBM required roughly 30 transports, and each entailed passing narrow branches. “Manoeuvring with centimetre precision was necessary in these areas, and that was probably the greatest challenge,” said Meusburger. Some components of the TBMs were lighter but bulky. “Parts of the so-called trailer are 15 m long, 4 metres wide and 4 m high. Because it was very narrow towards the tunnel ceiling, one employee spent five hours sitting on the load in order to precisely instruct his colleague, who was driving the self-propelled unit.” In addition to these special transports, there were countless trips for small parts and assembly material in smaller vehicles.

Once inside the assembly caverns, the parts were unloaded and rotated into position using a 1,000-tonne lifting frame from Felbermayr subsidiary Wimmer Maschinentransporte. The individual parts were then assembled into a large complete unit. This included the 250-tonne drill head with a diameter of 10.7 m. Each TBM weighed almost 2,000 tonnes complete with the trailer, which itself includes equipment to transport demolition material, transformers, electrics, water pipes, compressed air and support material. These technically demanding assemblies were planned and implemented by the Felbermayr Engineered Solutions division.

Felbermayr had also been awarded the delivery contract. “From the manufacturer Herrenknecht in Schwanau in Baden-Württemberg, 97 road transports were required for a TBM alone, and a further 30 for the trailer produced in Slovakia,” Meusburger explained. “As such, that was a massive undertaking.”

Likewise, transhipping the parts at the construction site was carried out with heavy-duty cranes of various sizes, coordinated by Felbermayr’s transport and lifting technology arm in Wörgl. Lift trucks and working platforms were also put to use. At the end of May, Felbermayr completed the project with the transport of two locomotives, which weighed in at around 40 tonnes and were transported by SPMT from the construction site installation area to the underground transfer point. The two railway vehicles ensure the material supply for the TBM.

This project had been years in the planning. “We prepared route studies, investigated numerous transport routes and were fortunately able to fix the project with the client at the end of 2022,” said Meusburger.


A great deal of logistical effort was required to drive the components - weighing up to 270 tonnes - through the narrow tunnel to the assembly caverns.