02 February 2023 08:04 PM

Sinai Tunnels... The dream that came true

Thursday، 12 January 2023 - 06:23 PM

The Suez Canal tunnel construction project ... It is the largest tunnel project in the history of Egypt and the Middle East, it was done with Egyptian hands, in addition to that it was completed in record time, and the Suez Canal tunnels are the largest in the history of Egypt and in the Middle East in terms of lengths, diameters and volume of works, and the standard time plan for implementation through accurate scientific studies and work done with 100% Egyptian arms and experience., To give the greatest examples of the ability of the Egyptian citizen to defeat the challenge, at the time when companies confirmed The Egyptian company completed 5 tunnels in half the term in only 6 years  .

What are the new Suez Canal tunnels?

A few years ago, specifically in 2014, the Suez Canal Authority submitted a plan to develop the Suez Canal axis, which included building a new canal parallel to the old Suez Canal to facilitate navigation in the canal, digging a number of tunnels under the canal, establishing a technology valley that is linked to Ismailia, East Bridge and West Bridge, establishing a number of floating bridges with the aim of increasing the country's income from hard currency, and increasing demand for the canal as a global shipping corridor by increasing its capacity to reach 97 ships. by 2023 and reduce the cost of the navigational voyage, as well as make Egypt a global commercial and logistics hub. Its cost was estimated at 60 billion Egyptian pounds, equivalent to 8.2 billion dollars.  

The work sites were received by the end of February 2015, where the arrival of tunnel boring machines continued from November 2015 until May 2016, and the tunnel boring machines were assembled at the work sites by Egyptian engineers, technicians, and workers.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched the signal to start implementing the Suez Canal tunnels project in July 2016, to carry out construction, excavation, construction and finishing of the Suez Canal tunnels by Egyptian hands, in an epic epic carried out by 3,000 Egyptian workers and engineers, to complete the construction of the tunnels in just 3 years.

These tunnels (Ismailia Tunnels and Port Said Tunnels) consist of two directions so that they allow passage back and forth. Each tunnel has two car lanes with a width of 3.7 meters per lane. The tunnels are equipped with surveillance cameras, speed radars, fire systems, emergency rooms and checkpoints. The two Suez Canal tunnels were also connected to several repeated transverse passages with a length of 500 meters for each passage.    

The Suez Canal tunnels, whether Port Said or Ismailia tunnels, were implemented under the supervision of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, and with Egyptian hands, through 4 national companies: Petrojet and Concorde, to implement the tunnels north of Ismailia, and the Arab Contractors and Orascom to implement the tunnels south of Port Said.

The location of the tunnels in the city of South Port Said was chosen to create a traffic axis that started from the city of Salloum to the city of Rafah in the east through the international coastal road through the tunnels, and the location of the tunnels was chosen in the north of Ismailia to connect the city of Salloum and Jaghbub in the west with Al-Awja in the east.

4 tunnel boring machines from (Herrenknecht) were provided complete with auxiliary equipment, which is one of the best international companies in this field.

International companies and offices have been contracted to provide engineering and technical consultations to achieve added value to the project.

Project Implementation stages

 Factories and auxiliary stations have been established and equipped from the two tunnel sites as follows: a factory for the production of concrete rings with a production capacity of 15 rings per day, two separation and purification plants (bentonite) with a capacity of 2800  cubic meters per hour, concrete mixing plants, two injection material mixing plants around the tunnel body with a capacity of 30 cubic meters per hour, two  electric power plants with a capacity of 18 megawatts per station, and two compressed air stations to support soil balance during drilling with a capacity of 11 bar per station, in addition to the construction of 4 tanks Ground water each with a capacity of 6000 cubic meters.

The implementation of open drilling and civil works for the entrances and exits of the tunnels began in parallel with the supply and installation of drilling machines and the establishment of auxiliary stations to shorten the time.

Drilling using tunnel boring machines was carried out in June 2016 with the first machine, in the tunnels of North Ismailia and then the second machine in August 2016, and the third and fourth machines were entered in the tunnels of South Port Said in November and December 2016 respectively.

Each group of tunnels consists of two car tunnels, each tunnel serves one traffic direction consisting of two lanes, and the length of one tunnel in the north of Ismailia is 5820 meters, where 4830 of them were implemented by tunneling method, and 990 meters by open excavation method, while the length of one tunnel in the south of Bursai d is 3920 meters, 2851 meters were implemented by tunneling method, and 1069 meters by open excavation method.

The inner diameter of the tunnels is 11.4 meters, while the outer diameter is 12.6 meters, and the net height above the traffic lanes is 5 and a half meters, and the distance between the two tunnels is 12.6 meters, and the maximum depth of the tunnels from the surface of the earth is 70 meters, and from the surface of the water under the Suez Canal 44 meters.

The tunnel body is lined with reinforced concrete rings, one ring consists of 9 pieces with a total weight of 112 tons per field, and the two tunnels are connected by transverse passages every thousand meters used in evacuation operations for individuals in emergency situations.

 Each tunnel has another underneath, emergency corridors, and firefighting systems, and the highest drilling rate in the world was reached at about 36 linear meters in just 24 hours, and it was surprising to the machine manufacturers, who asked for continued cooperation after such huge rates of implementation.

The Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces supervises the process of constructing the tunnels of Ismailia Governorate, in cooperation with the Egyptian national companies, where the company «Petrojet» undertakes the construction of the southern tunnel, and the company «Concor» is responsible for the construction of the northern tunnel, with a labor size of 3 thousand consultants, engineers, technicians and workers, under the supervision of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, and the tunnels project consists of three tunnels:  Two car tunnels and a third railway tunnel. The three tunnels pass under the Suez Canal in the northern area of Ismailia, and the two tunnels dedicated to cars connect the ring road in Ismailia and the road "Ismailia / Port Said" in the west by Ras Sidr, through surface roads and free intersections through overhead bridges, and the  length of one tunnel is about 5 kilometers, and contains 4 corridors to escape in case of emergency, and this technique is based on the possibility of escaping from one of the tunnels to the other, through corridors in every kilometer, and it was implemented with a technique that is done for the first time   In Egypt, and that the establishment of corridors between the northern and southern tunnels is a very difficult process, because there is groundwater between the two tunnels whose strength is very terrible, and to  make openings between the two tunnels, this water had to be frozen by injecting it with a liquid that turns the water into rock salt, and the water was frozen to a temperature of 35  degrees below zero, where the water turned into ice, and it was disposed of to open the passages between the two tunnels, and one of the German companies was responsible for the process Injection and freezing with the help of materials manufactured in Germany, but using Egyptian labor.

The diameter of the machine that works in drilling up to 13 meters, and the net tunnel from the inside is 11.8 meters, and  after finishing the diameter of the tunnel reached 6.3 meters,  that is, it consists of two lanes that accommodate two cars comfortably, and there are administrative buildings for inspection, where there are 16 checkpoints in both directions, and the inspection will be at a distance of three kilometers from the  tunnel body, and the citizen will be at a distance of not more than 300 meters from The new city of Ismailia, immediately after exiting the opening of the southern tunnel, which transports movement from Ismailia in the direction of Sinai, and the tunnel accommodates all heavy cars and owners  of all kinds, and each of these tunnels under it is another tunnel  called "service tunnel". Through 25 emergency rooms in each tunnel, it is possible to move in the event of problems or emergencies through these rooms to the emergency corridors, from which it is possible to move from one tunnel to another, as there are in each tunnel Anti-fire systems, telephone networks.

 All precautions have been taken to prevent the leakage and occurrence of water leaching, and the places where subsidence is expected are injected, and this is determined by the surveyors in the project, and the drilling machine, which is 184 meters long, and its path is determined by surveying experts, and it is directed by laser,  and pumping certain materials into the soil dissolve the soil of any kind, then the drilling output is directed through pipes to a station called "separation station" Outside, where water and dirt are separated, then the separation material returns back to the machine, and then cars transfer the drilling output after that.

The number of guides from the Egyptians in the field of tunnel boring machines increased, and all of them are young men, and the role of the engineer was to lead the «drilling auger» and give orders to his assistants through a computer-operated control room, and for information, the process of changing the teeth of the drilling auger, for example, is difficult and witha very high risk, and when it is damaged, a trained worker is placed in a capsule to enter a dangerous area, which is the distance between the auger and the wall that will be drilled in the place of the dam, and this capsule Equipped with oxygen and when an emergency occurs, he exits immediately, and this worker is medically examined before  and after the implementation of the operation for its danger, and receives a large reward for carrying out this dangerous task.

The most difficult and dangerous place in the new tunnels is the area that passes under the old and new Suez Canal, where it reaches a length of 24 meters, and the distance between the tunnel and the bottom of the Suez Canal is 16 meters, and this thickness has been calculated according to accurate engineering standards.

Tunneling experiments around the world indicate that no tunnel of this size has been constructed in at least 5 years. The concrete rings factory was established next to the Ismailia tunnels area to make the necessary rings for the tunnel body instead of transporting them from their places of manufacture and wasting time unnecessarily.

Although it is the first time that Egyptian workers have assembled the drilling machine, they were able to assemble the machine in two months instead of the supposed 6-month date of assembly, which was surprising to foreign experts.

The foreign experts working on the project had other expectations about the Egyptians, but these expectations changed completely, starting with the installation of the machines, which took only two months to assemble, to the rest of the implementation.

Challenges

Soil subsidence process: Drilling in unstable clay soil was successfully carried out by modifying its properties by adding a mixture of tooth and sand, to make it ready for the transfer of workers and equipment on it.

- Difficulty in directing the giant drilling machine, as it has a design for movement in a certain path "above, below, north and right" and modifications were made to the drilling machine due to the presence of a percentage of methane gas in the soil.

Drilling Machine

The drilling machine has very large weights, and it has been assembled in two stages:

First Stage:

 It was carried out outside the tunnel by Egyptian workers and engineers under the supervision of the German manufacturer of the machine.

Second Stage:

 Assembled at the beginning of the tunnel route, the number of workers inside the machine is 25 specialists, working in shifts every 12 hours.

Concrete factory for tunnels

A factory has been equipped to prepare and equip ready-mixed concrete and "signal" pieces that are used to create the "cylindrical tunnel" under the local course of the Suez Canal, and these pieces have already been produced, and are now assembled and deformed in open warehouses near the path of the tunnel opening, so that they are close to the drilling machine.

The cement used in the preparation of concrete is considered a type of cement that is resistant to all external factors that may occur on the soil, whether from groundwater or leaks from the navigational waterway. The cement for the project is manufactured in the Egyptian factories in the Sinai and Valley region and is supplied to the project at special prices.

These pieces are supported by rebar with high efficiency and "thickness", which makes them able to withstand the pressure of the soil and heavy loads, and the pressure of the waters of the Suez Canal that lies underneath. The concrete plant is equipped with two production lines capable of producing more than 80 concrete rings per day, equivalent to 30 linear meters.

Tunnel Detection & Security Systems

Among the advanced devices and equipment used to secure the crossings leading to the Sinai Peninsula in the navigational course of the Suez Canal are:

1- Detection systems for cars and trucks of the type (as&E Z- porta) from the American company "Rapiscan” and works to scan trucks and cars with (X-ray) rays to reveal their content, and the device can scan more than 250 trucks per hour.

2- The Eagle P-60 system provided by the American company "Rapiscan" for security solutions, and contains an (x-ray) imaging system with a capacity of 6 megavolts, enabling it to examine the contents of trucks and cars with a number of 180 vehicles per hour.

Economic, developmental, security, strategic and social feasibility of the new tunnels:

Undoubtedly, there is an economic, security, strategic and development feasibility of this giant project, which some have referred to as the second most important project after the High Dam:

Geographically, the tunnels linked the Sinai Peninsula to the Nile Delta and the rest of Egypt's governorates through 20 points of contact, after the Martyr Ahmed Hamdi 1 Tunnel and the Peace Bridge in Ismailia, in addition to several ferries who are the points of contact and connection between the Sinai Peninsula and the Nile Delta. Therefore, geographical connectivity has many advantages, for example, social, economic and security.  

 From a social point of view, the tunnels facilitate the movement of individuals, especially Sinai people, and the movement of vehicles and cars, as well as reduce congestion and congestion considering the increasing rates of movement and navigation. In addition, they reduce travel time from days to days; sometimes cars lock up to five kilometers and trucks carrying goods look for five days at peak time before digging the tunnels. As Lieutenant General Osama Rabie said During the opening of the Martyr Ahmed Hamdi 2 tunnel, more than 5 million vehicles passed through the tunnels from January 2021 to August 2021. Also, 6 million and 695 vehicles crossed over floating bridges and ferries, and the ease of movement in the Republic's work, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, which has suffered from marginalization for decades, creates a state of cohesion among the people of the homeland and enhances the sense of ownership and citizenship among the people of Sinai because of the state's interest in them like other citizens. The importance of the Martyr Ahmed Mansi Floating Bridge in Area No. 6 in Ismailia, for example, is to achieve integration with several ferries and tunnels under the canal. This ensures the ease of movement of citizens between the east and west of the canal, and furthermore, it enhances the concept of food security considering the state's tendency to establish fish farming projects in the sedimentation basins east of the Suez Canal, which in turn leads to the promotion of many other industries that will provide job opportunities for the people of the country, including meat and fish processing and feed production.

From an economic point of view: The feasibility of these tunnels is:

Creating job opportunities for Egyptians, especially the people of the Sinai Peninsula and the Canal cities, as a result of urban expansion and as a result of the state's keenness to attract more investments through the establishment of a road network linking the governorates of the Republic to each other in light of other national projects, as these tunnels and floating bridges facilitate the movement of trade by providing the supply of raw materials to industrial facilities on an ongoing basis.

It helps to establish new industrial parks, especially with the presence of new cities such as the new city of Ismailia, which drives development to progress. They also facilitate the movement of trade due to the ease of transporting goods.  It enhances the chances of success of the Suez Canal Axis Development Project, which aims to make Egypt a logistical, navigational, and global transport center by linking the ports of East and West Port Said, El-Arish Port, Adeeba City, Sokhna Port, Technology Valley in East Ismailia, and the Industrial Zone in the northwest of the Gulf of Suez.

Contributes to increasing export rates from the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

It contributes to the development and promotion of investments in the Suez Canal area, which has 6 ports and 4 industrial zones, as the tunnels are only five kilometers away from the industrial zone of East Port Said, in addition to its proximity to the Russian industrial zone and the ports of Port Said and East Tafria on the Mediterranean Sea, which facilitates the movement of foreign trade.

It helps to extend the commercial activity of the companies affiliated with the Suez Canal Authority in the Canal axis, which drives economic growth, and it also enhances the tourism revenues on which the Egyptian economy depends greatly, as it facilitates the movement of tourists because it facilitates access to important tourist cities such as Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba, Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab, and Saint Catherine. It can be said that linking the Sinai Peninsula with the rest of the governorates of the Republic will maximize the various tourism revenues, within the framework of the state's plan to develop tourism by opening new horizons such as yacht tourism, medical tourism, developing archaeological sites, reviving cultural heritage, and building museums of international standards, as they are tourist destinations. 

From a strategic , security and military point of view, the feasibility of the tunnels is to enhance the strategic depth of Egypt:  

 East Port Said tunnels that reach North Sinai connect Rafah to the east to Salloum in the west via the coastal road, which ensures the connection between Egyptian governorates, ports, and airports such as the Salloum land port, Jarjoub port, El Alamein and Borg El Arab airports, the seaports of El-Arish and East Port Said, Ghalioun farm and Damietta Furniture City.

The Ismailia tunnels, which reach central Sinai, connect the border cities of Salloum and Jarjoub to Al-Awja through the Dabaa axis, the regional ring road, and the Ismailia Road

The Martyr Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel 2, it connects the western borders, Cairo, and tourist cities such as Sharm el-Sheikh, and from there to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

This geographical connection with the rest of the Republic and the creation of a network of roads and axes linking the Canal axis with other new projects not only helps to maximize the economic benefit as a result of the transport of people and goods, but also helps to enhance the security presence as a result of urban expansion, which in turn leads to extending the wave of development of the Sinai Peninsula by attracting investments, including foreign direct investment, and establishing economic projects in the east bank of Egypt. Thus, drying up the sources of terrorism and eliminating any ambitions in Sinai, as well as eliminating any projects aimed at spreading chaos and fragmenting the country. It will also raise Sinai's share of national income, considering Egypt's move to revive and establish economic and regional entities such as the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Iraqi tripartite axis, as well as promote trade in the Mediterranean region.

These tunnels are not limited to being a road connection project, but they are a model for an integrated development project that considers the economic aspects, which in turn affect the social and security aspect. It is also a model for the application of the comprehensive concept of security, which includes the human, security, economic and food dimension. It will also make Egypt a global tourist, logistics, and commercial center and a regional energy center because of the unique geographical and strategic location linking the three continents, which maximizes the national income from hard currency considering Egypt's endeavor to expand industrial activities in the Suez Canal axis, such as car assembly, electronics, light metal industries, ship supply and maintenance, manufacturing and maintenance of containers, etc. All this will also contribute to reducing imports and localizing various strategic industries. 

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