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Crossrail's tunnelling academy opens to students

The £13M Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) in Ilford, east London, has welcomed its first students for training ahead of the start of Crossrail tunnelling in spring 2012.

TUCA will offer training on the Tunnel Safety Card — a pre-requisite for anyone who will work below ground on Crossrail — and Construction Skills Certification Scheme health and safety card training. Vocational courses initially on offer include pre-cast concrete manufacture and tunnel operations training. The Academy’s development has been overseen by Crossrail.

Work to install tunnelling plant and machinery in the major vocational training areas, including a static tunnel boring machine and a simulated tunnel environment, will be completed by the end of this year, allowing students to gain practical experience. By early 2012, TUCA will be fully open for business with a wider range of courses available, and the vocational training areas operational. Up to 150 students will attend TUCA at any one time.

TUCA aims to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on Crossrail and other tunnelling projects in London and the UK. It also has the potential to assist European projects, as the continent’s only other dedicated tunnelling training facility is located in Switzerland. TUCA will offer training to at least 3,500 people over the lifetime of the Crossrail project alone.

Crossrail training

TUCA will be used to train the Crossrail workforce ahead of the start of tunnelling next year.

“Crossrail is gearing up for the start of tunnelling next spring and we have now commenced specialist training for the first of many thousands who will work on the project,” said Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan. “TUCA will have a critical role to play in equipping people … with the necessary training and skills to work below ground.”

Crossrail also announced a new sponsorship deal for TUCA. Supplier BASF Meyco Equipment will donate plant and construction supplies worth £600,000. NCE magazine, National Grid and Interocean Personnel Services have already signed up to support the Academy.

TUCA students will be made up of new entrants to the industry as well as Crossrail’s contractors’ existing workforces. Those already working in the industry can up-skill or formalise their knowledge through nationally accredited technical and safety training including apprenticeships, NVQs and other programmes.

Facilities at TUCA will replicate the key areas of a fully-automated tunnelling project. These will include a simulated tunnel boring machine (TBM) environment, supported by a TBM backup area, with a loco and narrow gauge railway to the rear. There will be a separate chamber for sprayed concrete operations, and a large underground construction workshop.

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