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Bla Bla... And a brighter future
So, here we are at the end of another year. I guess I could drone on, Greta Thunberg style, about how difficult these 12 months have been for us all bla bla bla; the pandemic bla bla bla; the amazing T&T redesign bla bla bla. But I won’t.
Old not obsolete
An interesting news story caught my attention this month concerning the fate of a 126-year-old freight tunnel in the US. Far from abandonment, disrepair or demolition, the Howard Street Tunnel (HST) in Baltimore is to get a new lease of life. And it’s a wonderful story.
Ladies in waiting
Women make up around half of the world’s population but are underrepresented in nearly every walk of life. Especially construction. In the UK, women make up roughly 13% of the construction industry; in the US it is about the same. But the majority of these will be working in office and admin roles. Go to site and it’s a different story.
Not at all boring
We now know the details of The Boring Company’s much anticipated, inaugural Not-A-Boring-Competition final that was held in Las Vegas on September 12. The results make interesting reading. Twelve finalists used their custom-designed boring machines to build a 30m-long, 500mm-diameter tunnel as fast, as straight and as accurately as possible.
Lobbying can be a force for good
So, amid much anticipation, the US Senate has finally passed the US$1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, the package must clear the House, after which it will go to the president who will sign it into law.
Tunnel flood woes any ideas?
This month, in Zhengzhou, China, at least four people died when a road tunnel almost completely filled with water following a record 624mm of rain in 24 hours. During the same weather event in that city, a subway tunnel was deluged, with commuters up to their knees in water. In London, less dramatically but equally worrying, torrential rain and flash flooding put at least two stations out of action. And there are other instances elsewhere.
A new era, A new look
July 2021 brings a fresh new look to Tunnels and Tunnelling which has been designed to bring order, clarity and a more relaxed feel. But the changes are not just aesthetic. We have made structural changes to ensure T&TI keeps up with the times.
Notes from underground
Persuading lay people and decision makers of the potentially life-improving benefits of subsurface developments can be an uphill task. The popular imagination has been conditioned since childhood to think of the underground in terms of being dark, dirty, unwelcoming and potentially menacing, not a place to linger in for long. This is reinforced by the influence of popular fiction and Hollywood movies such as ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, and the fearful associations many of us may have with burial and entombment. So, how can the ill-informed and the sceptical be persuaded that subsurface developments can be attractive, adaptable, safe, sustainable and resilient, not only promising new urban typologies but also new ways of living?
Here we go again?
First, there was Elon Musk who claimed to be able to increase the speed of TBM tunnelling by ten.
A tool of conservation
Some of you may raise an eyebrow or two at the article on p29 of this month’s issue of T&TI seeing it is an extract from an arts magazine. But I make no apologies for its inclusion in this distinguished tunnelling journal.
Here’s to another 50 years
In my current capacity as chairman of the Tunnels and Tunnelling Editorial Advisory Board (EAB), I was pleased to be asked by the Editor George Demetri to write this comment on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the British Tunnelling Society (BTS).
There are now around 9.5m fewer jobs in the US than before the pandemic. President Biden is planning to rebuild American infrastructure at a time of profound national crisis when he could have been forgiven for concentrating on a stimulus package which prioritised unemployment, coronavirus vaccines, childcare and other pressing social issues.
And the winner is…
It was a great honour and privilege to be asked by the ITA to represent T&T on the judging panel of the ITA Tunnelling and Underground Space Awards 2020. Like many events these days, they were held virtually with the online judging completed in November and the awards presented on December 4.
Can Joe lift infrastructure?
‘Crumbling infrastructure’ is a term that is heard frequently in the US, particularly to describe transportation and public utilities. Perhaps ‘infrastructure crisis’ is a better term. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the US will need to spend US$4.5tr on infrastructure by 2025 to avert ‘serious economic consequences’.
Light at the end of the...
As 2020 draws to a close, I am seeing increasing daily use of that dreadful ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ cliché which many of us in the tunnel press avoid using like the plague. It is being used not to mark the end of a long, hard year, which of course it has been for many of us, but to express hope that multiple vaccines for covid-19 appear to be a distinct possibility.
A great big beautiful book
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.
Industry needs a WTC2021
So, another World Tunnel Congress (WTC) has come to what can only be termed a fairly successful conclusion given the unprecedented Covid-19 malaise under which it was held and so rapidly put together.
Achieving science fiction
There seems no halting the progress of technology and its innumerable benefits. A really inspiring announcement from the British government states that by Spring 2021, automated lane-keeping systems could be legal on UK roads for low-speed driving.
Decoupling from China
US-China relations are going through a tough time as the so-called ‘decoupling’ process enters a new phase, accompanied by the usual war of words. Rather than a straightforward trade war, we seem to be witnessing a tectonic geopolitical shift that will affect us all.
Supply malaise continues
It has been said that many of the jobs we will need in 20 years’ time have not yet been invented. But you can bet your bottom dollar that we will still need engineers in 20, 40, even 200 years’ time. In fact, increasingly complex technological societies – e.g. ones where the exploitation of underground space continues to expand – will probably need even more engineers than they do today.