A great big beautiful book

19 November 2020

New publications are awaited with interest and expectation – at least they should be. We like to hear of new stories, ideas and interpretations. That is why the publication of a book in 2021 which celebrates 50 years of the British Tunnelling Society (BTS) should create more than just a stir in the industry.

The provisionally titled ‘BTS at 50’ will mark the 50 years which have passed since the founding of the BTS in 1971 through the tales and recollections of individuals and corporations. They will share their experiences from tunnelling projects spanning the past 50 years, whether happy or sad, disastrous or triumphant. Their stories are important as they have project, technological and human value.

The inspiration for the book came from BTS member Ken Spiby who realised that the experiences and recollections of tunnellers should not be lost but preserved for posterity. So, after much work, research and compilation on the part of Spiby and his volunteer team, the book will be published sometime next year, probably in the summer.

And what tales it will tell. The past 50 years have seen momentous advances in tunnelling technology which have helped create a more sustainable and safer industry. Fewer lives are lost in tunnelling today than at any time in the past, while few can doubt the benefi ts of the TBM and the marvel of intelligent, automated drill rigs. Then there are the highly complex navigation systems, the processing plants that can return clean water to the environment, the formulation of new rock classifi cation systems which help make the designer’s task a bit more certain… the list goes on.

The book’s scope is huge and covers contributions from tunnellers, designers, project management teams, pit bosses, inspectors, miners and fi tters. What is fascinating is the contrast between the recollections of older tunnellers and the new young recruits: from those who describe their work as backbreaking in a harsh environment to those who feel lucky to be doing their job and thoroughly enjoy it. But it will not just be about British tunnelling.

The BTS at 50 book will also include individuals and projects from other countries, so it will be of interest to the entire global tunnelling fraternity.

To give an idea of this massive undertaking, there are currently 379 stories from roughly 200 contributors representing a broad cross-section of the industry and beyond, all bound into a 500-600-page A4 glossy, landscape-format publication. As President Trump might describe it: “It’s gonna be a great book folks, a great, big beautiful book.”