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Dr Evert Hoek
Evert Hoek Consulting Engineer Inc.
3034 Edgemont Boulevard
P.O. Box 75516
North Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V7R 4X1


Greece’s Egnatia
Highway Tunnels
Following the original Roman crossing of the Balkan AUTHORS
Peninsula, the new Egnatia Highway has 73 tunnels with a E Hoek: Consultant, Vancouver, Canada -
total length of over 100km. The authors (see box) explain the Member of Egnatia Odos SA. Panel of
Experts (geotechnical/tunnelling).
intricacies involved in constructing this mega-project P Marinos: Professor, School of Civil
Engineering, National Technical University of
Athens, Member of Egnatia Odos SA. Panel
uilt in the second century B.C, Via the Turkish border. The principal axis is

of Experts (geotechnical/tunnelling).
Egnatia was the first highway built 680km long and has 73 tunnels with a total N Kazilis: Former Tunnels Discipline Head,
by the Romans outside Italy. It tunnel length of approximately 100km. This Egnatia Odos AE. Currently manager of
crossed the Balkan peninsula component of the project is 50% co-funded Geodata, Greece.
from the Adriatic sea in the west to the by the European Union. G Angistalis: Tunnels Discipline, Design
Marmara and the Black Sea in the east. The Department, Egnatia Odos SA, Thessaloniki.
Egnatia Highway, currently under The geological environment N Rahaniotis: Head of the Tunnel Support
construction, follows a similar route. The highway traverses extremely diverse Team, Egnatia Odos SA, Thessaloniki
Forming part of the Trans-European natural morphology of great beauty. It V Marinos: Post graduate student, School of
highway network the Egnatia motorway crosses the Pindos mountains which are the Civil Engineering, National Technical
stretches from the west coast of Greece to southern most extension of the Alps. The University of Athens.
highway has been subdivided into the
following units (figure 1):
1. From the west coast port of Igomenitsa deformation at some places drastically
to the Metsovitikos River the Ionian degrades the quality of the rock mass. From
geotectonic unit consists of flysch and the Metsovo tunnel to Panagia region the
alternations of various carbonate formations, tectonic Nappe of Pindos comprises
mainly limestones, with very limited ophiolites as the predominant rock mass.
occurrence of cherts and siliciferous shales. These ophiolites exhibit great heterogeneity
Local occurrences of gypsum in diapiric regarding their degree of serpentinisation
intrusions can be also encountered. The and the occurrence of shear zones with
rocks are folded while large scale tectonic melanges. Weak flysch, depressed
overthrusts, big faults and mylonitized zones by this ophiolitic nappe, is also present.
are present in this region. 3. From Panagia to Siatista the molassic
2. From the Metsovitikos River to the domain consists of molassic formations in
Metsovo tunnel the Pindos geotectonic unit the form of alternating thick-bedded
Above: an interchange and tunnel consists mainly of flysch, characterised by conglomerates, sandstones and siltstones or
portals near the town of Metsovo in the intense folding, heavy shearing with claystones. From a tectonic point of view,
Pindos mountains. numerous overthrusts. The tectonic the area is of low disturbance and although
weak rock masses are present in places,
there is no dramatic decrease of
geotechnical quality due to the absence of
significant tectonic shearing.
4. From Siatista to Lefkopetra the
Pelagonian geotectonic unit is characterised
5 by the predominance of hard rocks such as
Albania Veria Alexandroupouli
marbles, gneisses and granites. The
4 Thessalonniki presence of tectonically weakened zones
3 Kozani through faulting is very localised. From
Turkey Lefkopetra to Veria the Axios to Almopia
Ioannina 2 geotectonic units consist of phyllites,
1 limestones and ophiolites while overthrusts
0 50 100km
Igoumenitsa and sheared zones are the main tectonic
Above: Fig 1 - Location map of the Egnatia Highway 5. From the Aliakmon River to the Axios

32 Tunnels & Tunnelling International SEPTEMBER 2006

Table 1
Rock type and Response to tunnelling and stability problems
Massive or bedded Simple tunnnelling conditions. Structurally controlled failures,
limestones. Marbles mainly controlled by rockbolts.
Filled karstic voids Risk of collapses. Probing ahead essential and use of spiles
or a forepole umbrella to cross void.
Sandstone flysch Gravity driven structuraly dependent instability in low stress
environments and occasionnally stress dependant instability
River flood plane and when strength to stress ratio is low.
Thessaloniki region the Siltstone flysch and Stress dependent instability resulting in significant deform-
entire area consists of shales ations and minor face instability. Control of deformation is
essential and both temporary and permanent inverts may be
recent alluvial fill which required to form a load bearing shell.
exhibit insufficient natural Sheared and Squeezing conditions and face instability problems at depth
compaction. From chaotic flysch (even as low as 100m in some cases, usually more than Above: a parking bay in a typical
200m). Control of deformations is essential and, to control
Thessaloniki to the Turkish extreme squeezing, yielding support may be required. operating tunnel on the Egnatia highway
border the Serb- Sound ophiolites Structurally dependent instability, more severe when
(peridotitees and discontinuities are serpentinised. Block size normally irregular
Macedonian massif and gabbros) and this requires a conservative excavation and support
Below: drainage and waterproofing
the Rhodope massif approach. layers behind the concrete lining.
comprise a basement of Sheared Squeezing conditions at depth (e.g. more than 200m). Control
serpentinites and of deformations is essential and, to control extreme squeezing,
hard crystalline marbles, ophiolitic melanges yielding support may be required.
gneisses and granites. At Molasses Simple tunnelling conditions. Gravity driven instability under
some localities, the latter (tectonically undist- low stress. Under confined conditions brittle failure can occur
urbed sedimentary in high stress environments. Weak geotechnical conditions in
two appear weathered sequence of rocks) the weathered surface layers, slope stability issues in portals.
and are locally crosscut by Gneiss schists Simple tunnelling conditions if not heavily tectonized and/or
faults with sheared zones weathered. Structurally dependant instability.
within the rock mass. The Phyllites Weak rock tunnelling. Deformation problems in cases of deep
tunnels. Control of deformation is essential an both temporary
Egnatia Highway also and permanent inverts are generally required to form a load
passes through areas of bearing shell.
younger sediments such Tectonics breccia in Ravelling due to loss of interlocking as confinement is released
as marls and sandstones brittle rocks, at face. Maintaining confinement is important and this can
kataclastes generally be achieved by retaining a core at the face and the
and areas of recent use of pre-reinforcement elements
(e.g. face bolts, spiles)
geological deposits with
soft soils of loose or open
Responses to tunnelling through these Concrete lining Primary lining
different rock masses are shown in table 1.
Waterproof Drainage layer
Tunnel geometry
The tunnels of the Egnatia Highway meet
and, in many cases, exceed the minimum
requirements for road tunnels recommended
by the European Union[1]. All tunnels are
twin two lane tunnels with unidirectional

traffic in each tunnel. The tunnels have two


3.75m wide lanes, two 0.5m shoulders and


two 1m wide pedestrian walkways. The

traffic envelope is 8.5m wide and 5m high.
The twin tunnels are linked by cross
passages with fire doors spaced at 300 to
400m apart (figure 2). In tunnel bores longer
than 2km every third cross passage is large
enough to allow emergency vehicle access
and is associated with parking bays to allow
vehicles to be moved out of the way.
Lighting, ventilation systems, signals and
fireproof structural components are all
features that have been found to contribute
to the overall safety of road tunnels[2].
The interior of every tunnel is finished with Cross passage every 300m
a cast-in-place concrete lining which is
backed by a waterproof membrane which is
backed by a drainage layer. This is placed
against the inner surface of the primary lining Parking bay
of generally shotcrete. Depending upon the
difficulty of the conditions, the primary lining Above: Fig 2 - Cross section and plan of a typical tunnel
is supplemented by steel arches and
rockbolts which are designed to support the of tunnel design. For the design of the the appropriate combinations of shotcrete,
rock mass surrounding the tunnel during excavation and temporary support, general rockbolts, lattice girders and steel sets with
excavation. design steps are shown in Table 2 (Kazilis the occasional use of spiles as pre-
and Angistalis[4]). reinforcement elements over and ahead of
Tunnel design Many of the potential problems identified the face. However, in the case of the
Egnatia Odos S.A. has developed tunnel during the preliminary design stages can be sheared flysch, weak serpentenites and
design guidelines that cover all the aspects easily dealt with by the timely installation of ophiolitic melanges, the risk of severe

SEPTEMBER 2006 Tunnels & Tunnelling International 33

Table 2
SITE REPORT - GREECE Step Design stages

1 Assessment of the strength and deformability of the ground along the tunnel.
Use of acceptable systems of rock mass classification and characterisation.

2 Calculation of deformations and plastic zones along the tunnel with no

support measures. Use of analytical equations taking into consideration the
stress field and the rock mass strength. Structurally dependent instability
deformations of both the tunnel and the face analysis is considered in cases of strong rock masses.
Below: Fig 4 - Principle
had to be recognised and dealt with. of delayed support
Figure 3 shows that, when the ratio of 3 Premliminary selection of support classes based on experience and empirical activation by the use of
rock mass strength to in situ stress falls yielding support.
below 0.2, deformation of the tunnel 4 Calculation of deformations and plastic zones along the tunnel considering
support measures. Use of analytical equations taking into consideration the
increases exponentially and can develop into Bottom: Fig 5 -
stress field, the rock mass strength, and the support pressure provided by
severe squeezing problems if not recognised the chosen support class. Breakdown of the
and dealt with appropriately. Consequently, average total cost of
5 Identification of problems. High deformations, face instabilities,
when the geological model indicates that floor heave etc. tunnel construction on
materials with low rock mass strength are the Egnatia highway up
6 Where potential stability problems are identified use of numerical analyses to
present and preliminary checks (such as check, confirm and finalize the support classes based on the anticipated to the end of 2003, after
those described by Hoek and Marinos[5]) failure mode Lambropoulos[3]
indicate a potential for squeezing is present,
a design involving the use of numerical and it is essential that the actual tunnel 1.50
models is required. The sequential deformations be monitored and used to Failure due to overloading

Support pressure pi – MPa

excavation and support installation is calibrate and correct the models. With 1.25 of support

modelled and the progressive failure and experience, this process has proved to be
1.00 Support capacity
deformation of the rock mass surrounding highly effective in the 59 Egnatia tunnels
the tunnel face is observed in detail. This completed to date (June, 2006) and relatively 0.75 Stability with large
permits the excavation sequence, support few situations have occurred where “tights”
types and capacities and installation have required trimming before the 0.50 reaction Deformation of
sequence to be optimised. In many of these installation of the final lining tunnel roof
0.25 Yielding
cases a temporary invert is required in the Fortunately, in most cases, it has proved support
top heading excavation in order to maintain possible to arrive at a combination of 0.00
a closed structural shell. Most of this support types with sufficient capacity to limit 0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8
numerical modelling can be carried out using the tunnel deformations to acceptable levels. Displacement i – m
two-dimensional models but, in some cases, Generally this has required the installation of
three-dimensional models are used to study overlapping forepole umbrellas consisting of Others Electrical & mechanical
4% 14%
particular details or to check the results of 12m long grouted, 114mm diameter pipes,
Portals Final lining
two dimensional models. 14m long grouted fibreglass dowels in the 3% 17%
In dealing with the relatively large face and temporary invert closure in the top
displacements discussed above, the tunnel heading excavation.
has to be over-excavated to allow the The two exceptions to the application of
deformation to occur and still to provide heavy support systems to control
sufficient room to accommodate the final deformation are the second tube of the
concrete lining. Even the best geological existing Metsovo and the twin Panagia
models and the most sophisticated tunnels in weak rock masses at depth of up
Excavation and
numerical analyses cannot predict the over- to 600m. In this case the capacity of primary support
excavation required with sufficient accuracy available support systems that can be
installed at the face was found to be
insufficient and yielding support has been analysis of the entire excavation sequence,
Percent strain =(tunnel closure/tunnel diameter) x 100

required to control the deformations. The primary support installation, completion of

cm principle of yielding support is illustrated in the tunnel excavation and installation of the
0 Figure 4 which shows that the activation of final lining is performed. Current European
po pi the support is delayed by the yielding Union practice require that all of the primary
15 0.05
elements. Obviously the tunnel has to be support be discounted in the design of the
0.10 over excavated to allow for the much larger final lining and hence, as a final stage in the
deformations that occur in these cases. The numerical modelling process, the primary
0.15 pi yielding elements used in the cross support is removed and the loads carried by
10 2.4 –2
pi cm po passages and the second bore of the this support are then automatically
= 0.2–0.25
po po Metsovo tunnel are “stress controllers”, as transferred onto the final lining.
described by Schubert[7]. This system has
0.20 Support pressure pi
5 In situ stress po
been very effective and the severe problems Tunnel costs
0.30 encountered during the driving of the first The average total cost for the 32 Egnatia
0.40 tube of the Metsovo tunnel more than 20 tunnels completed by the end of 2003 was
years ago[8] (during an earlier project) have US$26.9M per tunnel/km (figure 5).
0 been avoided. A more detailed analysis of the total tunnel
0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 costs, up to 2003, shows that, as would be
Rock mass strength cm /in situ stress po Final lining design expected, the difficulty of tunnelling has a
All tunnels have a final lining of cast-in-place major impact on this cost. For tunnels in
Above: Figure 3 - Approximate concrete. The design of these linings follows good quality rock masses, where simple
relationships between tunnel strain and the same procedure and is integrated into tunnelling methods can be applied, the total
the ratio of rock mass strength to in situ the design process used for the design of cost is in the order of US$16M per
strength for different levels of installed the primary support systems described tunnel/km. On the other hand, difficult
support, after Hoek[6] earlier. In general a detailed numerical tunnelling conditions which occur in fault

34 Tunnels & Tunnelling International SEPTEMBER 2006


zones or heavily broken and deformed rock ACKNOWLEDGMENTS REFERENCES

masses can result in total tunnel costs of up
to US$35.9M per tunnel per km. The authors would like to thank Egnatia Odos 1. OECD Directive 2004/54/EC on Road Tunnel
SA for its support in the preparation of this Safety.
A database for the future paper. We would also like to acknowledge the 2. A Haack. “Current Safety Issues in Traffic Tunnels”
With technical and funding assistance from leadership and encouragement provided by Tunnels & Underground Space Technology, Vol 17, No
Egnatia Odos S.A., the School of Civil Dr Sergios Lambpropoulos during his tenure 2, 2002, p117.
Engineering of the National Technical as general manager of Egnatia Odos SA from 3. S Lambropoulos. “Tunnelling on the Egnatia Odos
University of Athens has compiled a data 1995 to 2006. Motorway: Procedures adopted, managerial choices
base of information collected during the site made and lessons learned” Long Tunnels 2005
investigations, designs and construction of Symposium, Taipei, Taiwan, p37.
all of the Egnatia tunnels completed to date. 4. N Kazilis & G Angistalis. “Engineering geology and
This data base, which operates on an SQL the design of primary support of road tunnels: Cases
server contains structured digital data of all from the Egnatia roadway” ITA-AITES World Tunnel
geological models, rock mass classifications Congress, Istanbul, Turkey. Y Yerdem & T Solek, eds.
and characterisations, tunnel support and Balkema, p283.
lining designs, contractual details, 5. E Hoek & P Marinos. “Predicting Tunnel Squeezing”
excavation performance, results of T&TI Part 1 – Nov 2000, Part 2 – Dec 2000.
convergence and other monitoring 6. E Hoek. “Tunnel support in weak rock” Keynote
information and costs of all components of address: Symposium of Sedimentary Rock
the tunnels. Engineering, Taipei, Taiwan, November 1998.
Users of this data base will be able to 7. W Schubert. “Dealing with squeezing conditions in
examine correlations between any number Alpine tunnels” Rock Mech. Rock Engrg. 29(3), p145.
of related parameters and, with such a large 8. Y Malios. “Design and Construction of the
Above: a line of stress controller body of information covering a wide range of Metsovon road tunnel, Greece” Tunnelling 1994, The
installed in one of the cross passages rock mass types, it is hoped that some of Institution of Mining and Metallurgy and the British
between the first and second tubes of these correlations will provide useful Tunnelling Society, Chapman & Hall.
the Metsovo tunnel guidance for future tunnelling projects. T&T

SEPTEMBER 2006 Tunnels & Tunnelling International 35