Think global act local

28 April 2016

WITH THE RETURN of World Tunnel Congress (WTC) to North America this month there is an opportunity to promote the innovation and expertise of Canada and the US to the wider underground construction industry. Here’s what you should know about North America, by the numbers.

Timetric valued the global tunnelling and drilling equipment market at USD 16.5bn in 2013. Asia-Pacific was the largest regional market, accounting for 48.7 per cent, followed by Europe and North America, with respective shares of 25.9 per cent and 15.6 per cent. By 2018, the North American share is forecasted to reach 16.5 per cent.

While an increase over five years just shy of a full percentage point does not seem noteworthy, the US and Canada are each seeing billions of dollars of infrastructure development requiring tunnelling and or underground construction.

The Canadian market value for boring equipment has more than doubled since the post recession years of 2009 through 2011. In 2018, the annual market value is expected to reach more than USD 250M. Over the last decade, Canada’s most populous city, Toronto, has invested heavily in subway and light rail projects that require tunnelling through urban corridors.

As T&T went to press Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, elected last autumn, and the Liberal party, released their first budget, calling for “historic investments” in infrastructure – some CAD 120bn (USD 91bn) over 10 years. The brunt of the plan focuses on investing in infrastructure to create jobs and prosperity for the middle class:

“With historic investments in public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure, Budget 2016 will take advantage of historically low interest rates to renew Canada’s infrastructure and improve the quality of life for all Canadians.”

Public transportation and water and wastewater systems are top ranking categories for the investment. Looking to the US, 2016 is an election year with several candidates still vying for their parties' nomination. It's not certain what the future holds for the federal government's investment in infrastructure.

In the larger cities of Los Angeles and Seattle, officials are working on potential ballot measures for this November's election asking voters to fund new infrastructure for mass transit. Both cities are currently home to TBMs building subway and light rail infrastructure.

Despite the parody created by Hollywood that most people in the US happily spend their days guzzling giant sodas while driving giant, gas-guzzling cars, a majority of the population supports a move for Congress to increase the level of invest in public transportation infrastructure.

A survey released last summer by the American Public Transportation Association, in conjunction with the Mineta Transportation Institute, found 75 per cent support using tax dollars to improve the country's public transit infrastructure