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Construction of the Canal Tunnels marks an important phase for Oosterweel

On May 13, 2024, contractor TM ROCO started the construction of the Canal Tunnels. Sweco’s engineering expertise is being used for the study work. Thanks to a closed Ring, we are creating a robust traffic system that will improve mobility in the Antwerp region.

Kanaaltunnels Oosterweel

© Lantis / TM Roco

These tunnels run under the Albert Canal and connect the future Oosterweel interchange with the submerged Ring (R1). Together with the interchange and the Scheldt Tunnel, the Canal Tunnels complete the missing link in the Antwerp Ring.

Sweco designs both the permanent and temporary structures of the tunnels. For this, we work closely with the contractor consortium TM ROCO: Besix, Deme Infra, Dredging International, Jan de Nul, Cordeel, Denys, Franki, Willemen Infra, and Van Laere.

Björn Pirson, project director Oosterweel at Sweco, says: “This type of tunnel is unique in Belgium, the project is full of ingenious techniques from civil engineering. More than 100 employees (engineers, modelers, technicians) from Sweco and its partners are involved in this.”

persmoment Kanaaltunnels Oosterweel

Jeroen Philtjens (TM ROCO), Rob Smeets (Port of Antwerp-Bruges & City of Antwerp), Flemish Minister for Mobility and Public Works, Chris Danckaerts (De Vlaamse Waterweg), Marc Descheemaecker (Lantis), and Bart Van Camp (Lantis) officially launched the construction of the Canal Tunnels.

Oosterweel works on Canal Tunnels started

The Canal Tunnels consist of four tubes, stacked two by two. They start in the America Dock and run under the Albert Canal. They split at Noorderlaan: the lower tubes connect to the Antwerp Ring towards the Netherlands (A12 and E19), while the upper tubes will take you to and from the Sportpaleis and E313. The first sections of the Canal Tunnels will be completed by the end of 2028.

Kanaaltunnels Oosterweel

Installation of sheet piles in the Albert Canal starting from late May

Unlike the Scheldt Tunnel, for which the tunnel elements are built in a construction dock in Zeebrugge, the elements for the Canal Tunnels are made on-site. For this, we vibrate steel sheet piles into the bottom of the Albert Canal starting from late May.

Creating the sheet piles along the entire route from the Samga Dock to the Asia Dock will take about a year. From late 2024, we will start pumping out the water between the sheet piles and filling the construction pit with sand. This creates a dry construction pit in which we can build the Canal Tunnels.

Kanaaltunnels Oosterweel

Smooth and safe traffic, also on the water

The construction of the tunnels reduces the local clearance width of the Albert Canal for shipping traffic. However, the canal is a heavily used waterway that must continue to play an important role in transporting goods by water during the Oosterweel works, rather than by road. That is why Oosterweel project owner Lantis and the waterway managers Port of Antwerp-Bruges and De Vlaamse Waterweg have developed a package of measures in recent years to ensure that shipping traffic can continue to navigate optimally and safely during the works.

Kanaaltunnels Oosterweel

© Lantis / TM Roco

Not only shipping but also the safety of workers is central to Oosterweel’s vision. That is why we have built a collision protection platform in the America Dock, which must protect both the construction site, later the Canal Tunnels, and ships in the event of a possible collision. Because the top of the tunnels will be slightly higher than the bottom of the America Dock, there is a potential risk of collisions if ships deviate from their course. Although the chance of such an incident is very small thanks to maritime guidance and signage along the fairway, the potential consequences of a collision are considerable. For this reason, the collision protection platform, a first in Belgium, is essential to protect both workers and the Canal Tunnels and ships from damage.