THE BRITISH Tunnelling Society this week urged the industry to use National Vocational Qualifications in tunnelling to help underpin and build on existing underground engineering expertise in the UK.
The current feast of tunnelling in the UK on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), Heathrow T5 and potentially CrossRail, would, it said, need to be backed by new expertise. NVQs are thought to be vital in ensuring that the UK stays ahead and continues to lead the world in underground construction.
'A tunnelling NVQ was piloted on the Jubilee Line Extension project in the 1990s, but then there was a lull in tunnelling projects so it was hard to keep this going, ' said Bob Ibell of London Bridge Associates.
'Progress was made, but current developments have brought tunnelling and tunnelling training back into the spotlight and the stage is set for us to take big step forward.'
The BTS recognises that achieving a fully qualified workforce is not possible overnight and to start the ball rolling it has introduced an NVQ in safety.
It is proposed that this will become the minimum standard for starting work underground.
'We've had an eager response from our workforce and I am consistently surprised by the involvement of companies, ' said Ibell.
Progress on the CTRL has so far included contractor Edmund Nuttall carrying out NVQ assessments. It has awarded three level two NVQs on Contract 250.
The Costain/Skanska/Bachy joint venture has achieved accredited status and is taking the project forward on contract 240.