The paper covers the construction and use of large caverns for temporary and permanent purposes on the example of the 27km long Semmering Base Tunnel in Austria. Semmering Base Tunnel is a twin tube, single-track railway tunnel with numerous cross passages and an underground emergency station with ventilation located approximately at the center of the tunnel system. The construction started in 2014 and is ongoing until 2026.

The emergency station, which is located at the toe of two 400 m deep shafts, requires the construction of large permanent caverns with dimensions in the range of 20 by 18 m. The available space in these caverns will also be used during construction for the placement of site installations underground in order to optimize the logistic procedures and avoid disruptions in supply and discharge via the shafts.

Intermediate access points are provided by 120 to 200 m deep shafts, which also require the construction of temporary caverns at the shaft bottom for site installations, material storage and transport purposes. In one case even shaft head caverns are carried out as the shafts start underground at the end of a 1.2 km long access tunnel.

For the construction in difficult geological conditions complex headings and special support measures using the SEM are applied. Advanced numerical 2D- and 3D-calculations were carried out to verify the adequacy of the designed solutions. The final configuration of the permanent and temporary caverns includes the installation of a drained, secondary lining or a complete backfill in case of the temporary structures.


The content of the paper covers the construction of temporary and permanent caverns at the example of an actual project currently carried out in Austria.

The boundary conditions requesting the construction of the caverns such as safety regulations, logistic purposes or overall schedule requirements are addressed.

The chosen solutions for the construction of the caverns as well as its configuration for the temporary and the final stage are presented.

Project overview

Semmering Base Tunnel is located app. 80 km south of Vienna in Austria and is part of the Baltic-Adriatic Railway Corridor, which runs between the Baltic Sea from Gdansk in Poland to the Adriatic Coast near Bologna in Italy (see Figure 1).

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