5 JUNE 2018: Abdullah Alkhathlan, by his own admission, has tunnel vision.
“I’ve been with Bechtel on the Riyadh Metro for around four years, initially as a mechanical engineer before moving on to being a tunnel engineer, and eventually being promoted to Executive Assistant to the Riyadh Metro Project Director,” he says.
It was in the tunnels that he discovered arguably his deepest interest.
“I’d never heard of tunnel boring machines until the Riyadh Metro. I started watching videos of them on YouTube, and I asked my director to transfer me to the TBM team. The ADA was talking about seven TBMs coming to Riyadh, and that was a really big deal,” he says.
His transfer to TBMs would prove to be a ground-breaking moment, personally and professionally.
“I was fortunate to be with the TBMs from the beginning. On my site we received two machines from Herrenknecht, and even assembling them was a feat. Each one arrives in more than 75 containers, and the first one took four months to assemble.
“We launched the first TBM (Manifa) in May 2015, and we completed 5km in almost a year. To see the machine running, breaking rocks, was unbelievable. We launched the second TBM, Thaqbah, in the North Launch Shaft three months after Manifa launch, and that TBM would go on to bore 3km of tunnel. In total four TBMs were used on Line 1 to complete 16.4km of tunnel.”
Alkhathlan describes the complex logistics of operating a machine weighing hundreds of tonnes under Riyadh’s streets.Subscribe to continue reading...