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Comment | Let’s celebrate our tunnelling excellence

lake mead intake no 3 tunnel

Tunnelling has taken centre stage this week, and in particular New Civil Engineer’s Tunnelling & Underground Space awards. 

Now in their sixth year, these awards celebrate tunnelling success and recognise overall excellence in the delivery of international tunnelling projects.

And our winners – and indeed all our finalists – amply illustrate the brilliance of this industry: its ability to innovate, find solutions to tough problems, and fundamentally to crack on regardless.

This week we have rewarded some fantastic projects and people from all over the world. We convened in London, a truly global tunnelling hot spot, and to make things even better, we convened on the inaugural National Tunnelling Day.

Conceived and organised by the British Tunnelling Society Young Members, it was a social media-led attempt to help the BTS showcase the best of UK’s tunnelling talent and inspire future generations of young people to get involved in the industry.

And it was a huge success. On the day there were nearly 1,000 tweets from across the industry with a potential reach of 1.5M people, which is just crazy. Nearly every tunnelling consultant, contractor and client was spreading the good tunnelling word online too which was also brilliant. 

So if you haven’t done so already, tweet loud and proud about your top tunnelling achievement – with the hashtag #tunneldayuk to add your support.

It’s a great initiative. It’s a great industry. Our awards showed that. There are too many stand-out achievements to name here – read about them in New Civil Engineer this week – but special mention must go to our Supreme award winner, Crossrail.

Crossrail has been coming in for a bit of stick recently; views are surfacing that it wasn’t as innovative as it could have been; that the procurement wasn’t cutting edge; that collaboration could have been better. 

That may or may not be true. What is true is that Crossrail very nearly didn’t happen. It is worth remembering how political support so very nearly fell away at the 11th hour. There just wasn’t confidence that it would be delivered; that it wouldn’t be another West Coast Main Line. 

So what is also true is that Crossrail has changed the game. We now look forward with expectation, not hope, to High Speed 2, Crossrail 2 and all the other tunnelling projects besides. Because the industry has shown that it can deliver.

As prime minister David Cameron said: “Crossrail is an incredible feat of engineering that will help to improve the lives of working people in London and beyond.”

Our judges simply said that everything on Crossrail has been covered to a high degree of excellence. It is something of which the industry should be really proud and which it should make far, far more of.



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