This year’s World Tunnel Congress (WTC 2023) will be held in the historic capital of Greece, Athens. Themed ‘Expanding Underground’, the event will run from 12 to 18 May at the Megaron Athens International Conference Centre in the heart of the city.
WTC 2023 will boast the second highest number of papers of any WTC: 420 papers from 45 countries Ioannis Fikris, chair of the organising committee for the congress, believes that one of the reasons for the huge number of papers is that they will be published publicly for the first time.
“All accepted papers will be made available through an open access portal,” he told a press conference held this week. “It will be an open access publication to make sure the work and efforts of all the authors gain the maximum exposure and will be freely available permanently.”
Among the expected highlights of the congress will be Professor Marc Panet’s Muir Wood Lecture on his Convergence-Confinement Method in tunnel design and a keynote lecture by Professor Kyriazis Pitilakis from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on seismic design and risk assessment. There will also be roundtable discussions covering underground mobility and the resilience of underground infrastructure to climate change.
The WTC is the main annual event for the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA-AITES) which holds its annual assembly, committee and working group meetings at the congress. ITA-AITES executive director Olivier Vion will be reporting on the results of the association’s latest three-yearly survey which was carried out in 2022.
As with the wider construction industry, the survey shows that tunnelling projects have been experiencing escalating costs due to the impact of the pandemic and the ongoing geopolitical situation. Project volumes in 2022 had recovered to the same level as in 2019, said Vion, but the forward order book looked 25% healthier than in 2019. Two of the challenges facing the industry, said Vion, are how to build sustainably and how to gain acceptance from communities and population for underground projects.
Attendees to the congress can also book onto technical visits to projects around Athens on Thursday 19 May. These include Athens Metro Line 4 and the Hellinikon Project which will see a coastal road moved underground as part of a major regeneration programme.
Nikolas Roussos, president of the Greek Tunnelling Society which is hosting WTC 2023, said of Metro Line 4: “This is one of the most challenging metro projects.” Stations will be up to 52m deep with tunnels and stations excavated near to existing infrastructure and beneath historical buildings.
Reflecting Athens’ sporting past, this WTC will see a ‘symbolic marathon’ involving laps around the Panathenaic Stadium to raise money for a children’s charity and a cricket match against new member nation Pakistan.
This congress will be a hybrid event so that people can attend virtually rather than in person if they wish. All the presentations will also be available to watch online for a few weeks’ time after the event for all attendees. So far 1,500 people have signed up to attend in person, a figure that the organisers expect to rise to 2,000 by the time the congress starts. And around 150 virtual attendees had bought tickets.