Roberto González
General Manager
Robbins Mexico
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View from the Top

The Possibilities of Underground Space

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 17:22

Q: What is your assessment of Mexico’s underground infrastructure?
A: Robbins is an advocate and promoter of the use of underground space. The surface is finite and should be used by the people, not by cars. So, we believe in promoting underground mass public transportation, such as the Metro system. Robbins designs boring machines for each type of ground. Geology marks the specifications for each underground project but I think that Mexico must give geological studies the importance they deserve, as project developers often overlook these to reduce time constraints. Geotechnical studies are the best way to choose the best machine for boring in the safest and fastest way. For example, crossover machines allow the operators to change between two boring modes for different ground types, such as rock and clay. This versatility also improves tunneling safety and can minimize the risk of sinkholes or heave on any excavation, which is especially important while boring underground in highly-populated areas such as Mexico City.
Q: How does Robbins provide value to its clients?
A: Robbins has pioneered many types of boring machines since 1952, so our clients can count on our experience. We design our machines to provide the most efficient design and the most profitable excavation for our clients. They can count on us as an ally and a strategic partner that will accompany and guide them through their mechanized excavation phases. We provide very robust machinery that, with the right maintenance, can be reused for several projects and can also be updated by upgrading the technical systems.
Q: How was your experience in the Northern Drainage Tunnel (TEP) and Southern Drainage Tunnel (TEO)?
A: A Robbins Crossover (XRE) TBM was chosen to bore a 5.5km tunnel as part of Mexico City’s wastewater management efforts in the second phase of the TEP, making it the first crossover machine to bore in North America. Regarding our experience collaborating in public projects, we have had experience with construction companies like ICA, Carso and the Aldesa-RECSA Consortium, along with the governmental dependencies such as CONAGUA and SCT. We have worked on the TEO project for 10 years. I believe the project should have had more comprehensive studies before starting construction, but it is a fundamental infrastructure project for wastewater management in Mexico City. Our machines yield the best returns for mechanized innovation. We have had Robbins equipment working on projects such as the Metro line 12, the TEO, several pipe jacking projects and the TEP.
The TEO is one of the largest drainage infrastructure projects in the world and will work together with the Central Drainage Tunnel that was finished in the late 1970s along with the wastewater canal to transport water into the state of Hidalgo. Robbins supplied three Earth Pressure Balance machines to work on this project. Over the course of construction, there were several changes and unexpected events such as flooding on Lot 1, and mixed ground found on Lot 3. It was truly a unique experience to work on such a fluid project that involved high-water pressure, mixed ground and full-face rock.
Q: What other projects are you considering in Mexico and in which sectors?
A: The transition period between administrations slowed down several tendering processes but I believe there are many opportunities at NAIM. ICA won the tender for deep drainage. There are also tenders for the drainage works related to the runways. All the drainage will be released through the Valley of Mexico General Drainage Tunnel, an 18km tunnel that will feed into the TEO. Also, as Mexico City has many wastewater management needs, CONAGUA has significant plans for collectors feeding into the deep sewage tunnels. There is a lot of demand to build new tunnels for metro or high-speed rail and hydro projects and to start using innovative mechanized tunneling for the mining industry.