London swings

10 October 2013

Tunnellers are coming to London this autumn. The excitement of major tunnel projects in the city has caught the attention of conference organisers and the speculation of further major projects in and around London is making the rest of the world take note.

Three conferences are taking place in London. As Tunnels goes to press the International Urban Tunnelling Conference is already underway.

Later this month the BTS is holding a two-day event in Westminster. And next month New Civil Engineer is hosting its Tunnelling 2013 conference near Tower Bridge.


London is home to Europe's largest infrastructure project, the 42km Crossrail metro project. At a budgeted GBP 14bn (USD 22.5bn), and coupled with the massive upgrades to the tube network's existing stations, which have been estimated to total a similar cost _ gure the project is keeping a lot of Europe's tunnellers busy for the next few years.

In the east of London the mega sewer, the Lee Tunnel, has been challenging shaft sinkers and tunnel builders alike. The GBP 635M (USD 980M) project runs for around 7km with shafts up to 87m deep.

But it is not the current workload that is drawing the crowd. London and wider England has major works in the pipeline too.

A second Crossrail project is under discussion having been our for public consultation this summer. The north-south line is estimated to cost GBP 10-15bn (USD 16-24bn). The country also has plans for a second high speed line. HS2 will run from London to Birmingham, and as discussions progress, more and more of the line is being put in tunnel. Current cost estimate for the 225km project exceed GBP 40bn (USD 64bn).

Another major development to London's sewer network is planned with a 25km, 7m-diameter tunnel planned to run lengthwise under the Thames from Hammersmith in the West to Beckton Sewer Works in the East. The three Thames Tideway main construction contracts are estimated to be worth in the region of GBP 1.6bn (USD 2.4bn) in total.

And on the smaller side, the planned Northern Line extension to Battersea is progressing. The approximately 3kmlong, GBP 1bn (USD 1.6bn) project will connect with the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line at the Kennington Loop.

This steady workload for the next decade or more makes London an attractive city for tunnellers.

We as an industry need to make sure that we demonstrate out ability to deliver projects on time, within budget and without incident so that the politicians and the public have the con_ dence in us to deliver future infrastructure projects.

These conferences will offer a platform for sharing what had been learnt on recent jobs and what might be expected on the upcoming works.

But they should also be used as a soapbox for promoting the industry to the clients and wider press that may be in attendance