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Lowering the Sarmiento Railway Line in Buenos Aires: adopted design solutions to deal with an existing superficial railway

and urban constraints in a complex geotechnical context

Astore Giuseppe. 1, Quaglio Giovanni 1, Genovese Claudio 1, Cenciarini Mario.2 , Giacomin Giovanni2
1 2

Geodata Engineering, Turin, Italy Ghella SpA Rome, Italy

ABSTRACT The Sarmiento railway with more than 300 daily trips, transportating 110 millions people each year, lies entirely on surface and it provides the main transport system for people moving between the western suburbs and the city centre of Buenos Aires. This infrastructure with its many at-grade crossings represents a fracture through the city, causing considerable disruption to the traffic and serious general safety problems. Additionally, the rapid development of the city and the need for technological improvement of the railway system require a comprehensive program of renewal of the railway system. The project foresees to move the urban stretch of this line below the ground level including the technological modernization of the railway between the urban station of Caballito and the suburban station of Moreno (about 33 km of line) within the overall programme of constructing 15 underground stations. All works, included in each stage, are to be performed allowing the current superficial line in operation avoiding any disturbance to existing railway facilities (warehouses, marshalling yards, maintenance, cleaning, etc.). It is therefore ruled out the possible construction of a double-track tunnel excavated by EBP-TBM (12m external diameter). Most of underground structures of desired stations will be excavated by means of conventional method. The most challenging feature in construction of stations is attributed to its large cross section area of 300m2 in difficult geotechnical and very shallow conditions. The technical approach adopted to deal with complex problem can serve as a valuable reference for other cities considering making similar urban transformations in the future. 1. INTRODUCTION The Sarmiento railway, connecting Buenos Aires to the west of the country (Mendoza), is one of the six historical lines built between late 1800s and early 1900s, which still make up the rail network in Argentina. The history of this railway backs to 1853, when the Sociedad del Camino de Hierro de Buenos Aires al Oeste asked government of the Province of Buenos Aires to get the concession for the construction of a railway to provide a public service. In early August 1857, the railway was completed and after one year, it carried 190.000 passengers and 6750tons of cargo; when not more than 170.000 inhabitants lived in Buenos Aires. Figure 1: Flores station at the end of 1800s

The railway was electrified in 1918 by a English company called "Western Railway" since that time, the line had exploited by electric motor units, however, since 1950s it had gradually replaced by equipments of a Japanese brand, part of those are still operating. Currently the Sarmiento railway line is about 37 km long extending from its head station Once, in downtown Buenos Aires, and its end in town of Moreno (Figure 2) embracing a vast area in west part of the Federal Capital, six municipalities of Greater Buenos Aires (Tres de Febrero, La Matanza, Morn, Ituzaing, Merlo and Moreno), and 15 stations along the railway line.

Figure 2: Lay out of the Sarmiento railway to be lowered The lowering Project of Sarmientos railway is included in the Argentine National Government modernization program of urban railway whose main purpose is the renewal of rolling stock, the modernization of civil infrastructures with better architectonic and environmental integration, and therefore the general adequacy of rail facilities to ensure the security and reliability of railway system. The proposed lowering of Sarmiento railway will increase the overall capacity of the transport system of the city and it will solve the problems related to the impact of the superficial line on Buenos Aires landscape. 2. SCOPE OF THE LOWERING PROGECT Actually, the line has 52 at-grade crossings and 30 pedestrian passages, 300 trains run each day (1 train each 8 minutes) moving annually 110 million passengers. The Sarmiento railway stretches from East (Once) to West (Moreno) crossing nearly middle the city of Buenos Aires and much of its suburban area which is considered as a serious obstruction to the free and natural socioeconomic development of the city, representing also an important environmental constrain to whole city. For example, when the service operates based on ordinary program (so when there are no incidents or disturbances) the at-grade crossings remain opened for a very little time during peak hours (15 minutes per hour). The present service bears many deficiencies mainly due to its old configuration. Such a problem with rapidly increasing populated context represents a constant danger to people who are being faced up with frequent and serious accidents such as one that occurred in mid-September 2011 at Flores station where nine people lost their lives and more than 100 people were injured (Figure 3). Considering important strategic of the Sarmiento line for the entire transport system of Buenos Aires and take into account all above-mentioned problems, it is necessary to provide the lowering of the existing railway line by pursuing the following purposes: - neither at-grade crossings nor pedestrian passages at the end of the lowering works; - removal of the line on the surface will give continuity to the side city network, allowing a complete urban integration;

removal of the line will also allow maximum p of railway land to be used for urban development; new infrastructure will substantially improve the service, making frequency of 3 minutes between trains. Further, the operation of the double-deck train wagons significantly increases the transport capacity (150 millions of passengers per year) and improves passenger comfort; The new line will include the total renovation and modernization of the electrification, signalling and train controls infrastructure and systems; The new line will allow the installation of fire and evacuation systems that meet international standards; The works will generate 10,000 new jobs: 2,000 directly related to the construction and 8,000 indirectly associated with the provision of different services, materials and equipment that make up the project.

Figure 3: Flores station the accident of the last September 2011

3. PROJECTS BOUNDARY CONDITION The project has to comply with a series of conditions defined by Government of which the most important are: 1. The project will involve three distinct stages, ensuring always functionality of existing superficial railway during the construction phases without any interruption; in detail the project is sub-divided as follow: a. The first stage of the project will start from section Caballito - Haedo, over 16.7km, and will extend the lowering of entire track and of eight stations: Caballito, Flores, Floresta, Villa Luro, Liniers, Ciudadela, Ramos Meja and Haedo; b. The second stage will be between Haedo and Castelar, 3.95km in length, and the burial of two stations, Morn and Castelar; c. The last stage, Castelar - Moreno (14km) includes the construction of five underground stations (Ituzaing, Padua, Merlo, Paso del Rey and Moreno) and the construction of a ramp for the storehouse of Francisco lvarez. 2. Related to the construction methods or construction phases no expropriations are allowed. 3. The adopted construction method must guarantee a minimum occupancy for superficial areas. Near to stations, the only permanent superficial occupancy will given to the main passengers accesses, the safety exits, and shafts. Along line there will be some special ramps to connect underground line to Once station and to space on surface such as train storehouse and maintenance garages. 4. At the end of each stage, the surface will be cleaned from the railway equipment to let new superficial structures be built.

5. All civil infrastructures must be defined accordingly with double-deck train wagons; and must be ready to accommodate the transmission of power by means of an overhead wire (actually the transmission of power is foreseen with third rail).

Figure 4: The Double deck train wagons & the running tunnel section ready to accommodate the overhead system for power transmission. 4. GEOLOGICAL AND GEOTECHNICAL CONTEXT On a regional scale, the geological and hydro-geological context of the city of Buenos Aires consists of an alluvial terrace formed by deposits, typical of a transitional continental environment (fluvial sandy loam, gravel). This layer is genetically related to erosion and deposition operated by the Rio de la Plata. These continental deposits are interspersed with silt-clay lenses associated with deposition in marine environments (Sainato R., 2000). Continental deposits form two terraced basins separated by 10-15m of height, the first called "low terrace closest to the area of the Rio de la Plata, and the second known as "terraza Pampa" or "high terrace. The soil profile and hydrogeologic conditions were determined on the basis of the geotechnical investigations carried out in the design phase, involving laboratory and in-situ tests. Underground geological orientation of the city of Buenos Aires is characterized by following sequential stratigraphy (Figure 5): - Post-Pampeana formation, above Lujn formation, characterized by fluvial deposits and lacustrine clay sediments, gray - greenish gray fine sandy, with a thickness of up to 5-7 m medium (Unit 1). - A second layer of silty-sand sediments of aeolian origin (Buenos Aires Formation - Unit 2) hazel on limos, sometimes clay, sometimes sand locally cemented (Unit 3). The two formations together constitute the stratigraphic sequence known as the "Pampean"; - The sequence "Puelche" is characterized by secondary deposits (sands with lenses of conglomerate) Figure 5: Geological stratigraphy in passing from sands in the middle of Buenos Aires (M.P.Auge, 2004). the formation to silty sands and clayey silt at the top of the formation (Unit 4). Table 1 presents the geotechnical parameters considered in design.

Table 1 Geotechnical parameters (Vard y Asociados)

Ground type Clay and Clay silts Tosca Silt Transition material Puelche Sand Unit Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4 3 (kN/m ) 19 19 19 20 [] 28-29 29-31 28-29 35-40 c (kPa) 0 20-50 10-15 0 E (MPa) 100-150 300-350 150-200 300-350

5. REVISED CONCEPT SOLUTIONS The lowering of the Sarmientos railway line has been assigned to CNS (Consorcio Nuevo Sarmiento), a joint venture formed by Ghella, Odebrecht, IECSA and Comssa. The project involves underground civil works in an extreme complex context in terms of congested urban area together problematic hydro-geological condition. The role of GEODATA was the conceptual and executive design of the whole project (civil, architectonical, technological, railway system, etc). Given the strong man-made superficial context (Figure 6), the project is characterized by all the bonds and all those critical issues typically related to a Metro line, emphasized by the size of a rail line such as Sarmiento. Furthermore the requirement to keep in constant operation the current superficial railway, during the lowering works is an important limitation to the achievable design solutions both in terms of technologies and in terms of project management and integration with pre-existing on surface.

Figure 6: The Liniers station The original tender solution (Figure 7) proposed the construction of all stations by means of Cut and Cover Method. Stations had to be compeletly built in advance with respect to the passage of the EPB-TBM excavating the running tunnel.

Figure 7: Tender solution - general layout of the station constructed by means of Cut & Cover Method

Considering strong superficial bonds, like the railway systems and the railway deviations to be done in order to create the space for stations construction site, it was defined by CNS and Geodata in accordance with the owner (ADIF) and the concessionaire (TBA) a new solution for all the stations with the exception of the terminals (Caballito, Haedo and Moreno). The main characteristics of new solution are: - Realization of Stations and all belonging structures by means of conventional method; Creation of functional space able to host both the platform and concourse levels in the same underground station Creation of technical space able to host all the civil and rail installation (ventilation lighting medium and high voltage systems etc. etc.) in the same station; Minimization of number of exits (both technical and passengers exits) going to recreate inside the station safe places so as to comply with the international standards (NFPA130) and the national requirements such as PET (produced by Miniesterio de Planificacion Federal, Inversion Publica y Servicios Secreteria de Trasporte). Minimization of impact on existing public structures and buildings by means of a special underground rote for both access and exit from stations Optimization of layout of underground stations to minimize any lateral effect on existing surface buildings and structures

The abovementioned issues have resulted in proposal of a very big underground spaec (stations and belonging structures) which is the main challenging work in whole the project due to considerable geotechnical complexity and work constrains. The different underground structures that account for a station are (Figure 8): Main tunnel (excavation area S320m2); Connection tunnel (excavation area S140m2); Main entrance and exit structures (realized by cut & cover technique); Safety exit (realized by cut & cover technique).

Figure 8: Different structures of a station (main & connection tunnels) realized by means of conventional excavation method

As far as the running tunnel is concerned, it will connect to existing superficial line (at the beginning and at the end of each stage) through specially-designed ramp so as to allow an easy interconnection with the part of the line still in operating on surface. In addition, the tunnel will be equipped with all necessary safety systems in order to ensure the safety of the passengers. For this reason, several safety exits realized through the construction of technical shaft will be constructed along whole line. In Figure 9 a 3D view of a typical underground station is shown.
To next station by running tunnel (EPB - TBM) Station connection tunnel (conventional methods) Main entrance structure C & C)

To next station by running tunnel (EPB - TBM)

Emergency exit (Cut & Cover) Station Main tunnel (conventional method)

Figure 9: 3D view of mined cavern station Special attention was given for the final configuration of the station in such a way that it can easily identified by mean of some simple signs. In Figure 10, an example of final architectonic layout for Liniers station is shown.

Figure 10: Architectonic lay-out of the entries of the station of Liniers

6. DESIGN APPROACH A risk management approach will be considered for all civil works, in particular for parts related to the design of the stations due to undeniable complexity. To design the underground stations, different types of support systems and excavation sequences will be well-defined (the Project: P). Furthermore, depending on project requirements, several design alternatives will be implemented when necessary. Such design alternatives will particularly applied in stations only for special cases. Such design alternatives for project can be divided in two groups: 1. The Extra Projects (EP) are due to different conditions encountered during work; 2. The Countermeasures (C) are due to lack of right prediction of real condition during construction This approach is the well-known Observational Method (Peck., 1969) in which the design is constantly checked and optimized during construction (Eurocode 7) thanks to constant interpretation of monitoring data which let designer to take in action the design alternatives (EP-C) thought during the design stage. Hence, CNS will be able to optimize the project in progress in terms of time and cost.

Figure 11: Observational design approach adopted for this project The design of running tunnel by EPB-TBM was proposed by designer, considering noticeable experiences over the years. In addition, designer has a flexibility in referring to a successful experience learned in project Maldonado (Fornari et al., 2011 ) where designer was concerned in construction of a very important hydraulic project in which the excavation of 7m diameter tunnels were realized by a EPB-TBMs. 7. PRELIMINARY DESIGN OF STATIONS The main concern associated with the lowering of Sarmiento railway is the design and construction of the caverns (station) featuring a section of about 320m2, with low overburden (H<Deq) and difficult geological conditions. The boundary conditions of stations require a detailed study in such a way as to develop a 3D and 2D numerical modelling; whereby, all excavation sequences and change in stress-deformation could be in turn investigated (Figure 12). 3D numerical models made it possible to evaluate the actual displacement inside the tunnel taking into account the 3D effect of advancing face, ground surface settlement, and the interaction between all the underground structures. Figure 13 well demonstrates the displacements (expected for Liniers station) obtained by a 3D numerical analysis (FLAC 3D, ITASCA).

Figure 12: Excavation sequences in 3D numerical analysis

Main tunnel

Connection tunnel



0.0000 0.00 asentamientos (cm)

0.000 0.00 10.00 20.00 30.00 40.00 50.00 60.00 70.00 80.00








asentamientos (cm) -0.200






-2.0000 (m)

-1.000 (m)

Settlements in a station cross section

Settlements above the connection tunnel

Figure 13: 3D numerical simulation for a junction area (Liniers Station)

The problems associated with low overburden as well as those related to the presence of water under pressure within the unit 4 (Puelche) is evaluated with 2D numerical analysis. The water in pressure in Puelche sand is correlated with the risk of lifting/siphoning of the bottom of the excavation and with the 2D analyses it was possible to evaluate carefully the safety factors of the failure of the bottom of the excavation (lifting and / or siphoning) and all stresses acting on the supports (Figure 14). In Figure 15 the failure of the bottom of the excavation in Liniers station is well shown. In this figure it is possible to observe the safety factor of two different simulation phases: 1. excavation of the first bench; 2. excavation of the second bench. It is to underline that the designer evaluated all the possible geotechnical conditions considering the maximum and the minimum estimated geotechnical parameters; furthermore, the water level considered in the numerical analyses was always set up at the maximum values found with the site investigations.

B Legend:
A- Station main tunnel

B - Main entrance structure 1: Unit 1 2: Unit 2 3: Unit 3

Figure 14: Geotechnical section profile for the Liniers Station
FLORESTA_VA_MU_f6 14.0 12.0 10.0 8.0 FS FLORESTA_VA_AR_f6

4: Unit 4

Upper bound Lower bound

FLORESTA_VA_MU_f8 10.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 6.0 FS 5.0 4.0 3.0 2.0 1.0 FLORESTA_VA_AR_f8

6.0 4.0 2.0 0.0 0 20 40 60 80 Step 100 120 140 160

0.0 0 50 100 150 Step 200 250 300

Figure 15: Bottom excavation failure safety factor 8. CONCLUSIONS The project of lowering the Sarmiento railway requires a detailed and continuous optimization study during design and construction stages. This is due to the fact that the urban area of Buenos Aires is continuously changing as a result of rapid development of the city. Consequently, the proposed special solution should satisfy not only the present features of the city but also it should be as flexible as possible to meet the future development of the city. For this reason, it was firstly realized that the Tender solution (Figure 7) was not more appropriately feasible for the railway line so it was alternatively substituted with the proposed solution as given in paper (Figure 9). In order to constantly find alternative and feasible solutions for the project, the designer has to evaluate whole context of the project together with the main projects parties (the owner the concessionaire - the contractor - other). Figure 16 shows the EPB-TBMs shield ( 12m) arrived in Haedo site. From here the excavation of the running tunnel of the first stage will begin in first month of 2012 and the same for the second and third stages in future. At the time of writing this paper, the excavation of the TBM pull-downs shaft has just begun in Haedo site.

Figure 16: EPB-TBM shield in Haedo

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