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What’s the risk?
This month I am stealing a comment hook from the British Tunnelling Society again. At the October meeting, the evening’s lecture was on the management of risk in tunnelling and major infrastructure projects.
Bigger isn’t always bad
The global tunnelling industry is worth USD 1.5tr, according to a new report released in August by Timetric. Leading the pack is Europe, with a project pipeline of almost USD 575bn, surpassing Asia-Pacifi c by a mere USD 10bn. The report attributes this economic success for the region to mega-projects for high-speed and metro rail system expansion.
The Nuclear Solution
Balfour Beatty has announced that it is EDF Energy’s preferred bidder for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station tunnelling and marine works package. The four-year contract will involve the construction of three tunnels for a total of 9.5km in length and 7m in diameter. The tunnels will form part of the cooling system required.
Historians contend their subject matter’s utility helps us understand ourselves and the societies in which we live. To borrow an idea from civil engineering—we must understand the foundation before we build upon it. Looking beyond the literal interpretations, in the tunnelling industry without history one cannot appreciate the (comparative) ease, comfort and safety of today’s work environment and modern equipment.
Give the devil his due
Tunnelling unnerves a lot of people. Whether it’s something about the thought of a large hole being dug beneath the foundations of their property, the disruption of a few years of construction work, or the general idea of infrastructure being driven through a pleasant environment, it worries people. Especially environmental pressure groups.
It is a completely arbitrary number, pleasing only because it plays into a base 10 counting system, but compound growth of 7% results in a doubling time of 10 years. That’s what the growth of the tunnelling industry currently stands at according to the International Tunnelling Association (ITA), 7% per year which is expected to continue for the near future. Or at least the next five to 10 years.
In the UK the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has been running a tunnelling exhibition. It follows on the heels of an exhibition for bridges, which was rumoured to have attracted 15,000 visitors. The challenge given to the engineers of the British Tunnelling Society by the institution was to promote the event enough to beat this goal by the time the exhibit closes in November.
All the way up, all the way down
More rumblings from California as a SpaceX employee has posted a photo of Elon Musk’s newly acquired TBM to Instagram – before swiftly removing it. Before moving on, a quick glossary: SpaceX is the packleader of several companies that are vying to commercialise and reduce the cost of space travel; Elon Musk is its eccentric South African billionaire owner and Instagram is a social media platform for photographs that boasts 700 million users.
Approaching the age gap
Two-thirds of job openings for engineers in Canada are related to retirement replacement, according to a report released by the association Engineers Canada.
Confidence in conferences
Parallel technical sessions seem to irritate conference goers, with particularly awkward setups being remembered and discussed for years after the event.
In this issue we have a comment article written by Martin Knights, a past president of the International Tunnelling Association calling on engineers to “value their signature” and think about what they are putting their names to when they sign off on something. It starts on page 18 and is well worth a read.
Who gets to work
Voters in the US, particularly rural, uneducated voters, have said their support for president elect Donald Trump comes not from a place of hate, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, nor a disdain of liberal elitism. Their support is for his plan to bring manufacturing back to US soil, to create more jobs through lifting moratoriums on pipelines and natural resource extraction projects, and by building infrastructure—be it roads, wastewater or the notorious wall with Mexico.
Stonehenge sold short?
The Stonehenge Tunnel has reared its head once again. New plans have been green-lit by the government and it appears the shorter tunnel option, a 2.9km bore, is the favourite.
Rumblings from the City Hall of Prague suggest a new tunnel complex may be planned for the Czech capital. The story was broken in late November by the economicsfocused Prague daily newspaper ‘Hospodárské noviny’. The project hopes to complete the Prague’s inner ring road and resolve the city’s traffic problems. According to the newspaper, around CZK 80M (USD 3.14M) has been put aside for design and study preparations in 2017. Of course the Final project will be far more, around CZK 50bn (USD 1.97bn) according to early estimates.
Dust to dust
No matter, the type of infrastructure, going underground is preferable in most cases, but really the choice is made due to limited or costly surface space. The choice to go underground is a necessity to meet the demands of a growing population.
sales volume in the US, overall, was down 0.2 per cent in 2015. However, the sales volume for craft beer was up 12.8 per cent in the same period. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone—prolific growth across the US for microbreweries, brew pubs, tap rooms and even home brewing has been a hallmark of the last decade.
Getting both sides
In mid-August the construction union UCATT issued a statement saying that Laing O’Rourke’s new safety policy ‘safety differently’ could erode the foundations of health and safety culture. It further argued that the company’s new director of health and safety for construction, Andy Sneddon, wants to impose detrimental views from Professor Sidney Dekker “who advocates sweeping away a lot of the detail in health and safety provision, and just concentrating on saving lives”. This, it said, neglected the impact of more minor workplace injuries on workers’ lives.
So the referendum came and went, and the UK looks set to leave the European Union. Emotions are high and column inches long when it comes to the topic so I won’t add my refl ections on the politics or economics of the situation here.
Ome 40 miles from Silicon Valley, Peter Hirshberg delivered a captivating presentation on infrastructure, innovation and the Maker City to the largest gathering of the tunnelling industry in history, as one of WTC’s keynote speakers.