Running for the second time at ExCeL in London’s docklands, Underground Construction 2003 is set to be an exciting and thought provoking event. Current tunnelling activity in the UK’s capital city is rife. Section 2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project (CTRL), Heathrow Airport’s Airside Road Tunnel (ART) and Terminal 5 works, are just a selection of the major projects underway in London, and due to be discussed at the conference. However, in addition to strong national support, a high level of international input has lead to dedicated sessions focusing on projects currently underway in North America, Asia and Europe.

With over 60 papers submitted from around the world, the conference covers a wide range of topical issues. The most common theme being urban infrastructure development. Railway tunnels ranging from high speed lines to light rail are the most common type of underground project discussed, but highway and water projects are also represented in considerable numbers. Several authors have addressed health and safety matters, such as engineering to manage fire risk underground, and different approaches to contract management.

There will also be a number of papers on geotechnical topics associated with the specialist interests of the participating organisations. These include design, construction and environmental matters but will also reach into areas of growing importance, such as training and competency.

“This year the event adopts a two day format. The committee has elected to do this in recognition of the pressures on time felt by many delegates. It is hoped that the new format will provide a busy but interest-packed schedule,” states conference chairman, Keith Bowers.

The event is the latest in a 32 year series of internationally acclaimed tunnelling events, and is the only specialist tunnelling conference and exhibition in the UK. It is organised on behalf of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the British Tunnelling Society, with additional support from the British Drilling Association, the British Geotechnical Association, the Engineering Group of the Geological Society, the Pipe Jacking Association and the UK Society for Trenchless Technology.

“It is no surprise that the development of transport infrastructure, particularly in the world’s major cities, continues to be a dominant theme of the conference,” comments Keith Bowers. With the development of transport infrastructure taking place across the world, an important aspect of the conference programme is the advancement of tunnel boring machinery, required to undertake such schemes.

It is with this theme in mind, that Dr Martin Herrenknecht, founder and chairman of TBM manufacturer Herrenknecht AG, will present the Sir Julius Wernher Memorial Lecture. He will deliberate the advances in tunnel boring machinery and offer delegates an insight into new technology.

The conference also plays host to a British Tunnelling Society Discussion Evening, which will concentrate on the tunnelling works for Section 2 of the CTRL Project. Sessions will hear from professionals involved with the construction of the rail link and the difficulties faced. These discussions will be followed by a BTS Drinks Reception, which will take place within the exhibition hall.

Conference attendees will also have opportunity to book onto a tour of the major CTRL works in East London, where delegates will be able to see works associated with the London running tunnels and the construction of the subsurface Stratford International Station.

International Tunnelling Exhibition

The tunnelling exhibition that accompanies the conference has received an outstanding response this year. The exhibitor list resembles an industry ‘who’s who’ and includes some of the world’s most respected tunnelling clients, consultants, suppliers and manufacturers.

Once again Madrid Metro’s presence will be felt at the show in a large way. Metro de Madrid, along with Communidad de Madrid, have just completed the first phase of a two-part, four year expansion programme in Spain’s capital city, which began in 1999. Madrid Metro will once again be occupying three of the four front stands at Underground Construction’s exhibition, with British efforts taking the last slot, in the form of a CTRL/Rail Link Engineering joint venture stand.

Other leading companies amongst the 85 exhibitors at the event will include London Underground, Lovat, Wirth, Robbins and Herrenknecht.