A team of researchers recently shifted its operations to Edmonton, Alberta, from Hong Kong to continue development of a new alignment-control and surveying system for tunnel-boring operations. The city is helping with on-the job testing of the system, which is based on a successfully tested, smaller version for utility tunnels. Researchers aim to have a fully operational system for use in the construction of a large-diameter drainage tunnel this April.
“The tunneling industry is losing productivity and having problems with quality control” because it lacks real-time survey data, says Ming Lu, associate professor at the University of Alberta. He says the problem is exacerbated by a shortage of Canadian tunnel-boring-machine operators and tunneling engineers. The few available, experienced operators who are able to control a tunnel’s alignment with precision are in high demand and are bouncing between Edmonton's three ongoing drainage tunnel projects, he says.