This year's STUVA Conference in Frankfurt am Main from 26 to 28 November 2019 impressively demonstrated why it is regarded as the most important fair of its kind worldwide: three days in which everything revolves around tunnel construction and tunnel operation. More than 60 lectures in two parallel sessions, around 200 exhibitors presenting their services and latest products at STUVA-Expo and an unparalleled international expert audience.
For the third time in a row, the event has set a new visitor record for tunnel builders and tunnel operators: More than 2,000 registered conference participants at the STUVA Conference and countless trade visitors on the approximately 3,200 m² net exhibition area (7,000 m² gross) of the STUVA Expo, which took place at the same time, once again created a great atmosphere this year. STUVA would like to thank all speakers, exhibitors, participants, trade visitors and above all the numerous sponsors for three impressive days full of new contacts, highly interesting lectures and product presentations.
The intensive atmosphere of STUVA 2019 was already clearly noticeable during the opening speeches. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Martin Ziegler, Chairman of the STUVA Board of Directors, was the first to greet the conference participants in the "Harmonie" lecture hall at the Frankfurt trade fair, which was filled to capacity. He emphatically pointed out the special opportunities and great demands of the upcoming ecological traffic turn for engineers in tunnel construction and in the entire transport industry. Ziegler sees the industry well equipped for the transport projects of the future: "The progressing research and the possibilities of modern technology allow ever more challenging and diverse projects to be realized". Now, however, "it is up to the politicians to create suitable and relevant framework conditions that will last beyond the next election date". Professor Knut Ringat, who welcomed the STUVA conference participants in the name of the Frankfurt/RhineMain region, gave a very similar greeting. He sees the modernisation of the transport infrastructure as the most urgent challenge facing our society and pointed out the special importance of public transport and the numerous ongoing infrastructure expansion measures in the Frankfurt/RhineMain region. Gateway Gardens, the four-track expansion of the S-Bahn line Frankfurt West - Friedberg or the Nordmainische S-Bahn from Frankfurt-Ost to Hanau are important milestones in the expansion of the regional infrastructure. "But we already know today that the many infrastructure measures we are currently working on will not be sufficient to be able to provide an adequate service for the steadily growing number of public transport users even in 20 or 30 years' time," said Ringat. In his opinion, the much too long planning and approval times for infrastructure projects are a fundamental evil. "In order to achieve the turnaround, we need additional investment funds on the one hand and a substantial acceleration of the necessary planning procedures on the other", he demanded. The next greeting came from Jens Deutschendorf, State Secretary in the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing. He emphasised the increasing importance of tunnel construction for the transport infrastructure: "Tunnels consume less space, they do not cut up biotopes, and they also cause less noise than roads and railways in the open air. Without such buildings, it would hardly be possible to implement transport projects in highly densely populated and highly stressed areas," said Deutschendorf with conviction. The individual projects of the "FrankfurtRhineMainPlus" package of measures include the construction of numerous tunnels, and with the planned concept of a long-distance rail tunnel for Frankfurt, the next major project is already on the horizon. Numerous tunnels are also planned by the Hessen Mobil state road authority. In addition to the 16 road tunnels to date, five will soon be added, which are already under construction, and nine more are in the planning stage.
The president of the Swiss Amberg Group Dipl.-Ing. Felix Amberg was awarded the renowned STUVA Prize for his life's work to date. Since 1986 he has been working in the engineering office founded by his father and took over its management in 1995. The decisive factor in the jury's decision to award the prize was that Felix Amberg always promotes the use of the underground space without only looking at his own business success. He was treasurer and active board member of the ITA and played a decisive role in the founding of ITA-COSUF (Committee on Operational Safety of Underground Facilities). As a member and secretary of the board of trustees of the ITA-CET (Committee on Education an Training), he shows that the training of junior staff in tunnel construction and operation is of particular importance to him. In the opinion of the jury, he deserves this year's STUVA Award in recognition of his achievements and as a small incentive for the future.
The silence was as quiet as a mouse when the former German Chancellor stepped up to the lectern to present his thoughts on "Political and Economic Perspectives in Germany and Europe". As a well-known good speaker, it was easy for him to cast a spell over the audience and to open its eyes to the big picture. He, too, sees the need to "restore" the domestic infrastructure. Germany must finally acknowledge its responsibility as an economic leader and stand up for Europe together with France. A strong Europe is not only the right answer to US President Trump's "America First" rhetoric, but also helps in competition, for example with China, which has made impressive progress in the field of artificial intelligence. Germany must invest in what is important for the future. "Otherwise, we will be overtaken by other states; the Chinese will come to visit the new Disneyland," said the former Chancellor. The continuing applause after his speech suggests that Mr. Schröder is not alone with his views.
The opening speeches and the STUVA award ceremony were the perfect way to get the conference off to a good start. While the tunnel builders continued to use the large Harmonie conference hall, the series of lectures for tunnel operation began in a somewhat smaller adjoining hall. All Tuesday and Wednesday more than 60 individual lectures on various topics followed. The tunnel builders initially focused on major international projects on Tuesday: special construction logistics features for the TBM driving of the Brenner Base Tunnel, value engineering for the Semmering Base Tunnel and the special features of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, together with presentations on the major Stuttgart 21 project, were the top topics of the Tuesday morning. After the lunch break, everything revolved around current developments in tunnel boring technology. On the first day of the conference, the lecture event for tunnel operation dealt with the topics of operational safety, ventilation and energy supply, before current projects such as the U5 in Hamburg were used to shed light on the significance of underground railways for urban development. The final block dealt with crisis and disaster management and hazard and resistance analyses for underground railway systems.
The late afternoon belonged then completely alone to the new generation among the engineers. As in previous years, young people competed against each other on the big stage of the Young Forum with lectures on topics from their still young careers. All conference participants were called upon to select the best presentation in a secret ballot. All six participants in the competition were able to convince with interesting topics and successful presentations. However, Ivan Popovic, M. Sc. from the Chair of Tunnel Construction, Pipeline Construction and Construction Operations at the Ruhr University Bochum narrowly won the STUVA Young Talent Award. His lecture "New separation method for used bentonite suspensions: Fine grain separation by means of electroagulation - laboratory tests, prototype, construction site implementation" received the most votes. This year's STUVA Young Talent Award includes a trip to the extraordinary tunnel construction sites of the Alto Maipo hydroelectric power plant mega-project in Chile. But even the runner-up of the Young Forum, Alena Conrads, M. Sc. von Wayss & Freytag Ingenieurbau AG, did not come away empty-handed. She received the InnoTrans Career Award, jointly donated by STUVA and InnoTrans, Berlin and presented for the first time, for her contribution "Maintenance planning for mining tools in shield tunnelling taking into account uncertainties in wear prognosis - process simulation, sensitivity analyses, optimisations". STUVA warmly congratulates the winners.
The STUVA-Expo, which accompanies the conference, has become indispensable. What began decades ago with just a few stands has developed into one of the largest trade fairs for service providers and manufacturers of tunnel construction technology. As an exhibitor at the STUVA Conference, it is particularly easy for companies specialising in tunnel construction and operation to find new customers, as STUVA has a truly expert audience with a high density of decision-makers to offer, which is difficult to find elsewhere at similar events. At the STUVA conference you can reach exactly the people you want to reach with your own stand. For the conference participants, this industry exhibition is the ideal complement to the many top-class lectures. In addition, STUVA's decision not only to open the exhibition to regular conference participants but also to grant registered trade visitors free admission paid off again this year. Around 800 additional trade fair visitors were thus generated for STUVA-Expo. The approximately 200 exhibitors could not complain about empty stands or missing customer contacts. Even during the lecture series, there was a dense crowd in the corridors of the large Expo hall on both days, and so the exhibitors were actually only satisfied faces.
In recent years, the traditional festive evening on the first day of the STUVA Conference has developed into one of the absolute highlights of the event. With 1,500 seats, the booked festival hall was considerably larger than in previous years and yet all tickets were sold out weeks before the conference. The crowd was correspondingly large at the introductory champagne reception, which was again sponsored this year by TPH-Bausysteme. The delicacies from the rich buffet and tasty drinks quickly raised the mood on the festive evening. The short but extremely impressive show act "LED Dancer" also contributed to the excellent ambiance. As in previous years, the relaxed atmosphere at the festive evening proved to be the ideal opportunity to exchange ideas with old acquaintances and make new contacts. Until well into the early morning numerous guests were still present who were only persuaded to leave when the free beer dried up around 3.00 a.m. after the "Keller-Bar" of the sponsor Keller Grundbau had already been completely dismantled and the hall light had been switched on.
Despite the very short night for some conference participants, the second day already started at 09.00 o'clock with a rich lecture program. In the tunnelling segment, a total of six thematic blocks were dealt with by numerous speakers. The topics of the second day were tunnel construction in swelling subsoil, subsoil freezing, tunnel lining and sealing as well as new construction contract models presented at the end. Tunnel operators initially focused on several presentations on the subject of BIM applications before this segment also came to an end with fire protection and safety as well as special planning aspects. The last session of the STUVA conference then took place again for all together in the large "Harmonie" hall. In the so-called "home block", every STUVA conference traditionally revolves around building projects and the special features of the current conference venue. This year, the overriding theme of this concluding lecture block was accordingly "Underground construction in the Frankfurt region" before the chairman of the STUVA board, Prof. Martin Ziegler, grabbed the microphone for the last time around 6 p.m. and concluded the lecture series of the STUVA conference 2019 for this year with his closing remarks.
With the end of the lectures and the dismantling of the STUVA-Expo, the STUVA conference was not over yet. On the third day, the conference participants were able to take part in technical expert tours free of charge. Unfortunately, time is short for many conference participants and so many already started their journey home on the evening of the second day. That is unfortunate, because in such a way one escapes really unusual excursions, which cannot be repeated in this exclusive form so simply. This year, the participants could choose between a visit to Frankfurt Airport, the Hessen traffic control centre, the rescue and training centre of the Frankfurt fire brigade, the Frankfurt light rail central workshop and the construction site of the new Schiersteiner Bridge. In addition, an excursion to the particle accelerator facility FAIR led to Darmstadt. The undisputed highlight this year, however, was the underground TVM construction site of the U5 project Europaviertel in Frankfurt. In a total of eight small groups, the participants were guided underground to the EPB shield machine, which is currently standing in the middle of the 830-metre-long underground section due to maintenance work on the shield. The project engineers from Porr, who implement this tunnelling in everyday life, took the liberty of personally guiding the participants through the construction site and the tunnelling machine and leaving no technical question unanswered.
See you again in Karlsruhe at STUVA 2021!