Promoting the value of underground space 04 Nov 2015

TunnelTalk reporting

Professionals in the underground construction industry are attempting to raise the profile and maximise the possibilities for future underground space usage in the UK. The collaborative effort between the BTS, the ITA and ITACUS will culminate in the printing of an underground manifesto to guide planning authorities in the key issues surrounding the use of the underground.

Inaugural meeting of the proposed MAG2US Group
Inaugural meeting of the proposed MAG2US Group

The expansion and resilience of the world’s major cities will require planned and sophisticated use of all resources, including the valuable real estate of the underground. Used in the past only as required and created by public authorities, a more integrated approach to underground space development is needed to maximise the potential, safeguard the possibilities, and realise the opportunities. Recognising the urgency of the situation, a group of international underground space industry professionals convened in London to discuss the issues and initiate an activity group to raise the profile of underground space potential in the UK.

Part of the day’s activities included a visit to the disused Down Street Station in Mayfair – which closed in 1932, and is just one of a large number of underground assets under London for which new uses are currently being considered as a matter of priority.

At the meeting, Han Admiraal and Antonia Cornaro from the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association Committee on Underground Space (ITACUS) met with representatives of the ITA Young Members (ITAYM), the British Tunnelling Society (BTS), and the ITA Working Group 20 (WG20) on Urban Problems, Underground Solutions to participate in the establishment of a Multidisciplinary Activity Group for Use of Underground Space (MAG2US) in the UK. This very busy day in London included three separate meetings.

Tour of the disused Down Street Underground Station
Tour of the disused Down Street Underground Station
Group shot of participants at Down Street
Group shot of participants at Down Street

1st meeting: ITACUS – ITAYM

The ITAYM Group continues its integration into the ITA family and this time the ITAYM Group met with ITACUS to discuss future cooperation. This was the second meeting between ITAYM and ITACUS following the first in Rotterdam in July 2015. It was agreed that young members will start to participate in the ITACUS activities and that both groups will have regular meetings to deepen collaboration.

2nd meeting: ITACUS – WG20 – BTS

This was first official meeting between the BTS, ITACUS and WG20. The three bodies introduced their agendas and highlighted points where they can collaborate. The BTS is bidding for the WTC 2019 to be held in London and as part of the preparations it is targeting strategic goals of the ITA – one of which is Use of Underground Space.

ITACUS was invited by the BTS Chair, Roger Bridge, to participate during a meeting of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) in 2016. The BTS, as an associated society of the Institution of Civil Engineers, is a leading contributor of the APPGI along with other societies of the Institution. This invitation was kindly accepted by ITACUS Chair, Han Admiraal.

3rd meeting: MAG2US

As urbanisation increases and pressure grows on cities to become more resilient, it is more important than ever to begin a cross disciplinary conversation on how the use of underground space can help to cope with the evident challenges. Three-dimensional urban planning procedures are needed to enable the sustainable growth of cities, both above and below ground. Petr Salak (ITAYM Vice Chair) suggested the creation of a Multidisciplinary Activity Group for Use of Underground Space (MAG2US) in the UK, based on the solid work initiated and progressed by ITACUS worldwide.

MAG2US Group participants

Antonia Cornaro (Vice Chair, ITACUS); Bill Grose (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure and Past Chair of the BTS); Christian Bocci (Weston Williamson+Partners); Damian McGirr (WG20 VC); Elizabeth Reynolds (Director, Urben); Eoin O'Murchu (Chair, BTS Young Members); Han Admiraal (Chair, ITACUS); Jo Sui (Past Chair, BTS Young Members); Martin Knights (Past President, ITA); Petr Salak (Vice Chair, ITA Young Members); Roger Bridge (Chair, BTS); Stephanie Bricker (Team Leader Urban Geoscience, British Geological Survey); Wout Broere (Chair, ITA Working Group 20).

Parties that might participate in MAG2US include, but are not limited to:

  • All Party Parliamentary Group for Infrastructure
  • British Geological Survey
  • British Tunnelling Society
  • Catapult Future Cities & Transport Systems
  • Environment Agency
  • Greater London Authority
  • Institution of Civil Engineers
  • International Tunnelling Association Committee on Underground Spaces (ITACUS)
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Royal Institute of British Architects
  • Royal Town Planning Institute
  • Transport for London

The aims of this activity group could be, but are not limited to:

  • Creation of a Use of Underground Space Manifesto, for local authority planning departments and other relevant organisations to help them to make informed decisions when dealing with underground space
  • Round table discussions and workshops between disciplines
  • To improve cooperation between disciplines that care about the use of underground space
  • Organising multidisciplinary lectures and site visits
  • Stop the ‘first come, first served’ approach to depleting underground resources
  • Create a three-dimensional spatial planning strategy

It was agreed to have another meeting of this activity group in November 2015 and that the first target of the group will be to prepare a position paper or manifesto to outline what should be done to improve the situation regarding the use of underground space in the UK and how it should be achieved.


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