Minister Leichtfreid visits research centre for tunnel engineering

The Austrian Minister of Infrastructure Mag. Jörg Leichtfried officially visited Europe’s largest and most modern research facility for tunnel engineering, the “Zentrum am Berg (ZaB)” at the Styrian Erzberg. The research centre was established last year and is part of Montanuniversität Leoben.

Beim Arbeitsbesuch mit Mitarbeitern des Zentrums am Berg: Infrastrukturminister Mag. Jörg Leichtfried (3.v.l.), Vizerektorin Martha Mühlburger (4.v.l., vorne), ZaB-Leiter Univ.-Prof. Robert Galler (2.v.r.), Rektor Wilfried Eichsleder (r.)

“At the moment we are working on the two rail tunnels which are being excavated”, explained Univ.-Prof. Robert Galler, director of ZaB, and continued by saying that this excavation enables us to already put the first research projects into practice.   

The Minister was pleased with the progress that is being made and could himself try out the excavation method of blasting. “Our aim for the region is obvious: We want the local companies to be pioneers, to be the best ones, not the cheapest ones. Public research funding sets the course for this aim. The money invested in research and development creates jobs, strengthens our companies and helps resist emigration from the region. ZaB will be funded by 24 million euros in total, with 6 million euros funded from the Ministry of Infrastructure. More than thousand mining and civil engineering industries with a total number of 40,000 employees will continually benefit from the research done at ZaB.”

The rector of Montanuniversität Leoben Wilfried Eichlseder expressed thanks to all federal and regional funders and emphasised once again how important research is for both the universities and their students. “The outcomes of our research are instantly provided in the lectures. Our students are, thus, always up to date. The results of international rankings (e.g. ranked 7 th in material sciences and just recently ranked top 3 in petroleum engineering) show that the path we have chosen is the right one”, stated the rector.

Zentrum am Berg

With its Europe-wide unique equipment, Erzberg is becoming an important site for scientific and applied research regarding the construction and operation of tunnels.  The new infrastructure, including five tunnel tubes, will create the ideal conditions for the construction and operation of tunnels and other underground structures and Zentrum am Berg will thus be a hub for international researchers and companies working in this field. Among other things, ZaB will have two parallel motorway and railway tunnels and an additional tube which can be used as a test tunnel. The motorway and railway tunnels end after 400 meters at the old adit which, at the moment, is out of order, but, will be restored and used for research and development purposes.

Scientists of other research institutions have expressed interest in using the tunnels, for example to try out existing and new ventilation concepts or to examine the way gas spreads in a tunnel and the necessary safety equipment under real conditions. Until 2019, basic research into tunnel construction should be conducted as part of the two construction stages. EU projects, including the underground storage of solar and wind energy, are already being carried out.

Apart from basic research, specific contract research in cooperation with companies is expected to be carried out in 2018. In this context, tests can be done on fire detection and fire protection systems for high fire loads. ZaB also serves as a training center for emergency service workers, maintenance workers as well as for road and railway users.

ZaB will be completed and fully operational by 2019. The expenses of 30 million euros are covered by the Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, the Ministry of Science, Research and Economy as well as by the federal state of Styria and Montanuniversität. The ongoing operation of ZaB is to be financed by the research projects carried out in cooperation with the industry.

Further information:

Erhard Skupa
E-Mail: erhard.skupa(at)unileoben.ac.at
Tel.: + 43 3842 402-7220, +43 664 80 898 7220