ITA turns 40

26 March 2014

WHEN CONSIDERING an anniversary it is always fun to delve into the archives and see what the past can reveal. The International Tunnelling Association's 40th birthday is no exception and when routing through the early editions of Tunnels we happened across an interview with Alan Muir Wood ahead of the first ITA meeting in Oslo, 1974.

The challenges facing the industry then will be familiar to a tunneller embarking on his career today. Tunnelling in mixed ground was the dominant issue of the day and finding a 'universal tunnelling machine' that could cope with any ground, and any mix of ground conditions in the face, Muir Wood ruled out. However, through international cooperation, he thought, the tunnelling industry could develop a more extensive understanding of ground prediction, to replace the practice of cover-drilling ahead of the tunnel face.

Ideals of underground infrastructure to support garden cities above were as much dreamed about in 1974 as today, and tunnellers were as realistic then about achievability as we are now.

But the primary focus of the ITA, in the mind of Muir Wood who was elected chairman at the Oslo meeting, was education, both within the industry and externally. To "enlighten people contingent on the tunnelling world as to the potential of tunnelling". He told Tunnels in the May 1974 issue that "quite often the initial planning of a project or of a complex, in which tunnelling might play a part, is masterminded by those completely out of touch with its potential and how it might be put to best effect. In addition, there remains a certain amount of reproduction of methods used one or more generations ago which may be highly uneconomic at the present day."

With this in mind the opening meeting of the ITA set out its aims: "To encourage the planning of the use of subsurface and to promote advances in the preparatory investigations for tunnels, and in the design, construction and maintenance of tunnels, by bringing together information thereon and by studying questions related thereto.

The Association declared that it fulfils it mission through: A. Interchange of information among its adhering National Organisations B. Holding meetings at intervals C. Organising studies and experiments D. Publication of documents Those familiar with the ITA's activities will know that it can easily claim to have fulfilled its mission, not least through the ever growing World Tunnel Congress, the latest of which is taking place in May in Brazil, which brings together a greater diversity of tunnelling knowledge than any other gathering of tunnellers.

The past 40 years have seen massive development within the tunnelling industry and the ITA has been core to guiding and celebrating these advances.

At the May 1974 meeting, Tunnels and Tunnelling was asked to act as a focus for enquires about the ITA and help channel material through to the secretariat. Since that meeting we have watched and reported on the efforts of the ITA to steer the industry into a more prosperous future. The Tunnels team would like to congratulate the ITA on a very successful 40 years and wish all success for the next 40.