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Good prospects for tunnelling growth

Current demands for tunnelling skills are set to increase both in the UK and globally, according to speakers at yesterday’s Tunnelling Conference in London.

“The UK tunnelling industry is currently in a very busy period – and the work is not just in London,” said Halcrow practice leader for tunnelling and earth engineering and science Martin Knights during his opening address to the 200 delegates gathered at the ICE. “But this is just part of a global boom – in Shanghai there are currently 39 tunnel boring machines (TBMs) in the ground and another 20 being prepared for launch.”

Knights added that the rise in tunnelling projects is partly due to the development of TBM technology but is mainly because planners are increasingly viewing underground as an asset to meet the demands of urban growth.

“Projects currently under development, such as the Bank Station upgrade, HS2, Crossrail 2 and the Thames Tideway scheme, will mean that the skills being developed for the London Power Tunnels, Crossrail and the Lee Tunnel will continue to be in demand,” added Arup UKMEA leader for tunnels Matt Sykes during his presentation. “Other projects such as the Northern Line Extension, Silvertown Tunnel and Lower Thames Crossing will help maintain consistency in demand that the UK tunnelling industry has seen since 2006 onwards.”

Sykes added the challenge for the tunnelling industry was to make sure it did its part in securing this unprecedented series of major projects by delivering resources and results. This would be done through a focus on developing skills of younger engineers and innovating to ensure tunnelling remains the cost-effective, risk-managed solution that the industry is currently delivering.

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