Optimism for events into 2021 and beyond 29 Oct 2020

TunnelTalk reporting

After the disruption of the events schedule caused by the pandemic through 2020, there is better news and more optimism for the programme of conferences and gatherings into 2021. Cancellation and postponement of early 2020 events had to be delayed again from later in 2020 or converted to virtual events arranged at short notice and to mixed results and traumatic logistics. While the pandemic is on a resurgence in the northern hemisphere as it moves into the winter season, and after cancellation of events in the southern hemisphere winter, there are bright spots and the anticipation of events to go to in person in 2021.

2020 diary of events were thrown into disarray
2020 diary of events were thrown into disarray

One of the first industry gathering events to go ahead as planned is in China. Plans for the bauma China construction equipment trade fair in Shanghai is reported by the organisers Messe München are in full swing with exhibition stands and booths prepared, registration open, and a gathering of thousands anticipated. Not in as large a number of visitors as the last 2018 events or as usual for the regular biennial event, but certainly going ahead as a physical programme as planned.

China, where the pandemic had its beginnings, seems to have fared best of those most affected in the northern hemisphere with hardly any registered cases of Covid-19 reported recently. This is said to be because when China acted it acted decisively, with clear messaging and strict enforcement of social distancing and isolation; a national free programme of testing and effective associated tracking; and experience of the previous SARS virus epidemic which was reported as being more deadly but less transmissible. Whether there will be international visitors in large number at bauma China in three weeks' time is yet to be known, but visitors within China are free to gather in Shanghai and engage in the event from 24 to 27 November. For those unable or unwilling to travel, the event website provides a virtual experience to connect with exhibitors and engage with the event programme.

bauma China 2020 in Shanghai going ahead in November
bauma China 2020 in Shanghai going ahead in November

Over the Himalayas in India, the bauma ConExpo event, co-organised by Messe München and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, was cancelled from its 3-5 November 2020 dates and rescheduled for 23-26 February 2021. It remains a programmed event at the HUDA Show Ground in Gurugram, New Delhi.

For the international gatherings of the ITA at its annual World Tunnel Congress events each year, the 2020 event in Malaysia was postponed from its May fixture to a September date and then converted to a virtual conference and exhibition programme. At its virtual 2020 General Assembly, the 78 Member Nations of the ITA (International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association) voted to cancel a WTC in 2021 and move forward the WTC programme under planning by Denmark for Copenhagen in May 2021, to 2022. This was at the agreement of Member Nation Mexico that had been selected at WTC 2019 in Naples, Italy, to host WTC 2022. Good news this week is that the organisers in Copenhagen have confirmed the dates of 22-28 April 2022 for the WTC gathering in Denmark. The event will build on the programme already progressing for 2021 with an extended call for papers to end August and the deadline for drafts of accepted abstracts being submitted by 1 May 2021. With a year, five months and 23 days to go, the organisers and DFTU, the Danish Society for Tunnels and Underground Works, are promising a celebration event to welcome everyone together again.

For the other significant annual ITA fixture, the ITA Awards series and its conference and Award winners’ presentation banquet, this has been rescheduled as a two-day virtual event on 3-4 December 2020. It was programmed to be part of the physical gathering of the Australasia Tunnelling Conference (ATC) in Melbourne, Australia, from 29 November to 2 December 2020 but this is another casualty of the pandemic and has been rescheduled to 10-13 May 2021. Organised by ITA Member Nations Australia and New Zealand, the event will stage at the same venue, the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Melbourne and an invitation and warm welcome is extended to all.

Two-day ITA Awards event a virtual gathering
Two-day ITA Awards event a virtual gathering

Other disruptions for regular industry events include the every-two-year extravaganza that is the InnoTrans trade show in Berlin, Germany. Originally programmed for September 2020, it was moved to April 2021, and recent news is that the 2021 staging is now also cancelled for a regroup of the schedule to its regular fixture in September 2022.

Events cancelled for early 2021 include the George Fox Conference convened by the UCA of SME in New York and held in conjunction with the Moles Awards Banquet in January, which has also been cancelled for the coming year.

WTC Copenhagen now set for April 2022
WTC Copenhagen now set for April 2022

In Canada, the 2020 Vision Underground conference, organised by TAC, the Tunnelling Association of Canada, has become the 2020-One Vision Underground event and will be held 19-21 October 2021 in Toronto. With an emphasis on the future of tunnelling, the organizers are preparing for, and promising, the biggest and best ever TAC event.

In London, the BTS Conference, originally scheduled for October 2020 is rescheduled for 2-3 March 2021 and all remains on schedule with the situation for convening larger gatherings in the UK being monitored closely. Across the Channel in France, the rescheduled AFTES Conference from September 2020 is on track for a gathering in person in Paris in September 2021.

After cancelling the event in person for the NAT, North American Tunneling Conference, Nashville, USA, in June and replacing it with one of the first online virtual conference and exhibition experiences, the UCA of SME has also converted its Cutting Edge conference from a gathering for 9-11 November in Dallas, Texas, to a virtual event. Registration is now open to join the virtual gathering and the program offers an update on projects and technological developments in the USA and from abroad.

RETC 2021 Las Vegas, perhaps the first event for gathering in person
RETC 2021 Las Vegas, perhaps the first event for gathering in person

For many in the international tunnelling industry, eyes are on June next year when professionals, visitors, exhibitors, colleagues, clients, customers and friends might have the first chance to plan a trip and travel to Las Vegas, Nevada, to attend the RETC, Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference, planned for 13-16 June 2021.

In the meantime we wish everyone well, for safe and careful gatherings through the coming year end and new year celebrations and festivals, productive virtual work environments and meetings, and we look forward to our first opportunity to meet up again in person, when we will all be truly thankful.


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