Crossrail - key to future?

22 October 2007

It feels a bit like Christmas here in the UK at the moment, not just because of the miserable freezing weather, but because after years of will they won’t they, the government has finally given London’s US$32bn Crossrail project, with it’s 16km of 6m diameter twin tube tunnels, the green light.

Core to this was the plugging a US$700M funding gap by the City Of London Corporation. It’s good to see those who will benefit from the rail link, probably to the tune of billions over the years, ‘jumping on board’ and digging into their pockets.

Also, the US$4bn Thames Tideway project, with its 30km+ of 7.2m diameter tunnel looks set to go ahead, after the government realised it was pretty much impossible not to have it.

Add to this National Grid and Thames Water’s upcoming tunnel schemes for the capital, with 10’s of kilometres of tunnels, and things are looking pretty healthy on the London front.

I don’t think we can underestimate how the success of the large scale tunnelling work on the recently completed Channel Tunnel Rail Link Section 2 had a hand in this. It certainly proved that these complex underground civil engineering schemes could be realised on schedule and budget. And it is testament to this that Crossrail is already looking to follow the CTRL 2 model for project delivery, using a similar set up to the Rail Link Engineering venture that project managed the scheme for the client.

But there is one sticking point to this seeming windfall of works, how are we going to staff these mega-projects? I would guess at the moment phone lines are heating up between UK head offices and various tunnelling experts now consulting or construction in all corners of the world. It’s a shame then that Crossrail couldn’t have come straight off the back of CTRL 2, whose tunnelling finished just a few years ago, with its abundance of tunnelling talent in place.

Having said this, with tunnel construction scheduled not to start until 2010, it is extremely encouraging to see that Crossrail is already setting its sights on 900 schools to raise the industry’s profile, and hunt out and encourage prospective engineers of the future - who currently may not have even considered civils.

I can’t overstate how absolutely vital I believe this to be, and it is a move we at T&TI wholeheartedly support, not just for the good of Crossrail, but for the good of the future of civil engineering in the UK.

Tris Thomas

Tris Thomas

Tris Thomas Tris Thomas