The British Tunnelling Society (BTS) has submitted its bid to host the World Tunnel Congress and ITA General Assembly in London in 2019, 28 years after it last hosted the event in 1991.
Citing the UK capital city’s world-class facilities, and the volume of major tunnelling projects that are either in design, construction or scheduled for delivery by 2019 in the case of Crossrail, the steering committee of the bid presented its comprehensive proposal to the Executive Council of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA-AITES) by the deadline of early January 2016. This is well in time for the vote by the 74 ITA Member Nation representatives at the WTC General Assembly in San Francisco in April 2016.
To compete for the coveted annual event, the BTS submitted a proposal of more than 100 pages that describes the many reasons to support London in 2019 as the right time and perfect place for the international gathering of the world tunnelling and underground space engineering community and its global representative association. By 2019, the UK, and the world’s top travel destination of London in particular, will be celebrating the completion of impressive underground projects, the progress of others, and the start of yet more.
Crossrail, one of the largest current infrastructure projects in Europe, will be completed and in service to provide international visitors a 45-minute high-speed ride from Heathrow Airport directly to the International Convention Centre venue of the ExCel exhibition centre. The purpose built ICC of ExCel is itself alongside the London City Airport, the financial district of Canary Wharf, the 2012 London Olympic Park, and the transport services of London Underground stations, the Docklands Light Rail network and the River Thames Clipper bus services.
At the same time, major tunnelling investment for the Thames Tideway CSO project in London will be under way and substantial works of the second high-speed rail link in the UK, from London to Birmingham, will also be progressing.
Other major projects in the pipeline for the UK capital city include the proposed 30km-long underground section of the north-south Crossrail 2; the proposed Silvertown road undercrossing of the Thames using a British record 12.5m EPBM to provide relief to the ageing, and overstretched Blackwall Tunnel; the planned 3.1km twin bore Lower Thames Crossing using a 12.1m TBM to provide traffic relief for the Dartford Tunnel and Elizabeth Bridge to the east of London; and the planned extension to London Underground’s Bakerloo Line.
Also in 2019, the UK and its project collaborator France, will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel undersea rail link connection; the Institution of Civil Engineers will be celebrating its 200th anniversary; and the Brunel Tunnel will have provided more than 175 years of continuous service under the River Thames at Rotherhithe.
The UK is recognised as a spiritual home of modern era underground and tunnel engineering, with the Brunel Tunnel being the first subaqueous tunnel through soft ground and using a mechanical shield. From there, British engineers have continued the process of development and innovation, culminating today in the application of state-of-the-art techniques and the introduction of new systems in the fields of robotics, electronics and installations for long-term monitoring of underground structures through their design-life.
This historic and current connection to the tunnelling industry in the UK inspired selection by the BTS of the conference theme “From Pioneering to Modern Possibilities”.
The UK and the BTS has a long connection with the ITA-AITES. It is one of the original founding nations of the Association and Sir Alan Muir Wood, as its first President (1974–77), became its Lifetime Honorary President. The annual Muir Wood Memorial Lecture in the opening session of every WTC is a legacy to Sir Alan’s commitment to the worldwide tunnelling and underground space construction industry.
BTS then nominated and supported two further UK Presidents of the ITA in Colin Kirkland (1989–92) and Martin Knights (2007–10). In addition, BTS members are heavily involved in the ITA Working Groups and the foundation of the ITA Young Members forum. The UK Society remains a champion of the workings of the Association and its future expansion.