Webuild undertakes Italy’s first-ever hyperbaric excavation for Naples-Bari high-speed rail project

Webuild workers adapt to the pressure of working in the hyperbaric excavation site on the Casalnuovo tunnel in a special compensation chamber Webuild workers adapt to the pressure of working in the hyperbaric excavation site on the Casalnuovo tunnel in a special compensation chamber (Image: Webuild)

Italian construction group Webuild is undertaking what it claims is Italy’s first excavation in a hyperbaric atmosphere, as part of the construction of the Naples-Bari high-speed railway.

Webuild is using the hyperbaric excavation method on a section of the Casalnuovo artificial tunnel, which lies partially under the water table.

The excavation method uses compressed air to increase the pressure at the site and keep water out of work areas. It also has environmental benefits by ensuring that the aquifer does not come into contact with cement mixtures and chemical additives.

The process required trained workers to gradually adapt to the pressure in a special compensation chamber that accommodates a maximum of 20 people per shift. 

An excavator in operation during Webuild's excavation works for the Casalnuovo tunnel on the Naples-Bari high-speed railway An excavator in operation during Webuild’s excavation works for the Casalnuovo tunnel on the Naples-Bari high-speed railway (Image: Webuild)

The new technique is being used for a 650m section of the tunnel, in a process that operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The Casalnuovo tunnel is due for completion in mid-2025. It forms part of the 145km-long. €5.8 billion (US$6.3 billion) high-speed railway between Naples and Bari, scheduled for 2028.

Webuild is responsible for building four lots on the line: Naples-Cancello, Apice-Hirpinia, Hirpinia-Orsara, and Orsara-Bovino. Those lots total 74km of new railway and six tunnels, for which eight TBMs are expected to be built.

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