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March 3-7, 2026

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Exploring New Tunneling Technology



The global tunneling and rock drilling equipment market will grow in the next four years—driven largely in part to technological advances.

More underground tunnel construction technologies enable easy access to construction in any terrain. Electronic monitors and sensors placed in the tunnel boring machine (TBM) help in smooth functioning of the machine while digging, avoiding existing structures in the process. TBM technology has grown in the last 20 years and precise engineering have made it possible to tunnel through the deeper underground surface.

One trend in the market is innovation in tunnel dismantling machine (TDM). An innovative solution is explored with the development of new type of TBM. In the construction of MTR West Island 703 of the Hong Kong subway system, the newly constructed tunnel was required to relate to existing tunnel. To achieve this, a TDM was used. TDM works in reverse principal with the machine, emptying the tunnel segment from behind and filling them with cement with arm located in front. It provides concrete lining along the face of the tunnel and prevents it from collapsing. The support helps to achieve linear lining of the tunnel. The backward movement of the machine is achieved by using compressed air technology.

The development of machinery in the last 50 years resulted in savings when constructing tunnels worldwide. These machineries provide cost saving as well as reduce the time of construction by a great margin. The innovations have led to the construction of such projects, which were once considered impossible. These machineries also provide analytical tools to facilitate the design of tunnels.

One challenge in market is geological complexities in tunneling and rock drilling operations. Every key aspect of the tunneling process is influenced by the geology of the area. Poor investigation of the surroundings result in project delay, which can result in major accidents, affecting the cost of the project. Inefficiencies often lead to extra work on the project. A detailed topographical survey is required before starting a project to identify the significant features such as faults zones, streams, and cracks. The problems encountered during tunneling are constituted by geological characters.

Contractors who build tunnels will need to be aware of the trends to be able to deliver the best work to their customers.

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