We’re proud to be taking part in the construction of tunnels in Russia
From 10 centimeters to 19 meters in length – this is the range of tunnels that can be built in any type of soil with the help of tunnel boring machines manufactured by the German company Herrenknecht AG, which is headquartered in Schwanau, Baden-Württemberg. Technology from this manufacturer is used for the construction of railways, the metro, highways, power systems, pipelines, mining and site exploration, and hydropower facilities in many countries. Henning Johannis, General Director at ООО Herrenknecht Tunnelservice, talked to Capital Ideas about the company’s activities in Russia.
When did your company, Herrenknecht AG, come to Russia? Are there any regrets about this decision?
The first installation was made in 1988 for the construction of the Lyublinskaya line of the Moscow metro.
When did Herrenknecht AG open a representative office in Russia? What kinds of projects is the Herrenknecht Moscow Tunnelservice office currently working on?
The representative office was opened in 1999, initially to sell micro-TMBs. But soon we added training for client personnel, maintenance, installation, rehabilitation, and sale of spare parts. The construction of the Lefortovo Tunnel for the Third Ring Road in Moscow was a big push for us in 2001.
Do you have a lot of employees in Russia and how do you hire staff?
We currently have 20 employees, and 15 of them are engineers. A lot of them are graduates of the Moscow State Mining University, but we have people from other Russian universities as well. A lot of them started their professional careers with us.
How does Herrenknecht AG operare in Russia? Do you sell equipment, or lease it?
Our equipment is very particular because we manufacture it for specific projects, for a specific geology. Our clients are also only companies that specialize in underground construction. Companies like this often have a lot of experience already, and want equipment that fits their needs. That’s how we sell equipment.
Who works on Herrenknecht AG equipment in Russia – Germans or Russians? Are you satisfied with the qualifications of Russian professionals?
Other than myself, we only hire Russian professionals, and they are well qualified. Of course, they need some time before they can operate our machines on their own, but this is the case everywhere. We send a lot of our specialists on work trips abroad occasionally. We’ve worked with Germany, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Poland, Norway, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, etc.
The only problem is knowing foreign languages. Unfortunately, people who graduate with engineering degrees don’t know other languages well and can only communicate with the help of dictionaries.
Are there statistics about how many jobs were created in Russia thanks to cooperation with Herrenknecht AG?
I don’t know any statistics like this, but a three-shift tunnel-boring project for the construction of the metro, including all the auxiliary operations, requires about 70 people. Today, there are 18 Herrenknecht shields operating in Moscow. For microshields (there are over 150 in Russia), this number amounts to somewhere between 8 to 15 people.
How many projects in Russia have been completed with Herrenknecht technology and boring machines, and how many of these can be called landmark projects?
We’re proud to have participated in the construction of tunnels in preparation for the Sochi Olympics, the construction of the metro in different cities, and the laying of gas pipelines.
What’s the total length of tunnels constructed with Herrenknecht AG tunnel-boring machines and other equipment in Russia?
As of today, over 150 km of metro tunnels, 12 km of road tunnels, and 5 km of railway tunnels have been constructed in Russia with the help of our technology. For microtunnels, the number is a lot higher and amounts to over 1,000 km.
What about in the world?
It’s a good question. There aren’t exact numbers, but we have a total of over 150 shields operating all over the world right now, which means that we’re building about 1.5-2 km of tunnels every day.
According to the Moscow Department of Construction, the city plans to start building 22 metro tunnels in 2019. I’m guessing that Herrenknecht equipment will be used for a project like this?
In Moscow, different companies use our technology, and a total of 20 Herrenknecht machines are currently in use.
What other Russian projects does your company plan to take part in?
There are a lot of interesting projects, but of course infrastructure projects are at the top of our list: the metro, highways and railways, as well as the construction of tunnels for utilities, gutters, and pipelines. We also have new solutions for the construction of mining fields.
Have the economic sanctions affected Herrenknecht AG’s business in Russia?
Yes, there have been consequences, first and foremost a decrease in funding, since all of our projects depend on government orders.
How has your company’s turnover changed over the past few years in Russia and what does it currently amount to?
The company is stable right now, and we’re not expecting a lot of growth. If there is a big project, there is a lot of growth. But 2 years later, after the tunnel is built, everything will return back to normal. This is the same for our business all over the world. So for the Russian market, our company’s share of total turnover fluctuates between 1 to 10%.
Is this a lot or a little?
It’s a good figure, considering that we operate in over 140 countries.
Have you been in Moscow for a long time? Do you live here permanently or do you take trips here?
I came in 2000 for the construction of the Lefortovo Tunnel, and stayed. I live in Moscow.
Has Moscow changed a lot over the past few years? Which changes are the most noticeable?
Moscow is a global city, and it’s developing very quickly. Over the past few years, a lot has been done for city residents and guests: parks, pedestrian areas, trees, the expansion of public transportation, and much more. All of my foreign guests notice how clean and safe the city is.