A giant tunnel boring machine (TBM) constructed by German tunnelling and mining firm Herrenknecht has been delivered to the Lyon-Turin Mont Cenis base tunnel project. 

The 334-metre-long machine has a head diameter of 10-and-a-half metres. It will be used to excavate 18km of the tunnel which crosses the French-Italian border. 

The TBM weighed in at 3,200 tons. It is the fourth machine delivered by Herrenknect for the Mont Cenis rail tunnel project. A fifth is under construction. 

It is a ‘Gripper’ model, named for the “gripper shoes” the machine uses to attach to the tunnel walls and push itself forward.   

Maurizio Bufalini, General Director of TELT, the project’s management consortium, lauded the eventual benefits of the plan.  

“This is the first of two TBMs that will cross the border – the most tangible symbol of our project: a railroad that will connect Italy and France through the Alps and link our countries and Europe in a more efficient, economical and sustainable way,” he said. 

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CEO of the tunnelling and mining equipment manufacturer Martin Herrenknecht said: “The delivery of the Gripper TBM for the Mont-Cenis Base Tunnel is another historic milestone for Herrenknecht. We are very proud to be part of such a flagship project”. 


Client: TELT SAS

Contractors: Eiffage Génie Civil/Spie batignolles génie civil/Ghella Spa/Cogeis Spa JV

Application: Railway

Tunnelling length: 2 x 18,000m


Machine type: 2 x Gripper TBM S-1363 / S-1364

Diameter: 10,430mm

Cutterhead drive power: 4,900kW

Torque: 13,000kNm