A 100m-long tunnel boring machine (TBM) has begun excavating the 2km Grottaminarda tunnel on the 18.7km Apice - Hirpinia section of the new Naples - Bari high-speed/high-capacity line.

The Apice - Hirpinia section will run between the towns of Avellino and Benevento and includes the construction of stations at Hirpinia and Apice, three tunnels totalling 12km and four viaducts. The full section is expected to cost around €628m to build.

The 12.5m-diameter TBM, named Aurora, is powered by 18 motors with a total output of 6.3MW and will operate around the clock for five months, advancing around 16m a day. The machine will also line the tunnel with 1.8m-long, 550mm thick segments.

The TBM will also be used to bore the Melito tunnel from the same site. More than 100 staff divided into four teams will operate the TBM.

Italian infrastructure manager RFI awarded Astaldi and Salini Impregilo a €608.1m contract to build the Apice - Hirpinia section in April 2019. Salini Impregilo later acquired Astaldi before being renamed Webuild. Italian State Railways’ (FS) consultancy subsidiary Italferr is responsible for design and supervising work on this section.

The new Naples - Bari line is part of the Scandinavia - Mediterranean TEN-T corridor and is due to be completed in 2027 at a cost of €5.8bn.

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