The Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) has flung open its doors to the first wave of students. The training courses at launch included the Tunnel Safety Card, health and safety training, precast concrete manufacture and tunnel operations.

A Crossrail spokesman said, “TUCA students will be made up of new entrants to the industry as well as Crossrail’s contractors’ existing workforces. Those already working in the industry can up-skill or formalise their knowledge through nationally accredited technical and safety training including apprenticeships, NVQs and other programmes.

“Facilities will replicate the key areas of a fully-automated tunnelling project. These will include a simulated tunnel boring machine environment, supported by a TBM backup area, with a loco and narrow gauge railway to the rear. There will be a separate chamber for Sprayed Concrete operations in addition to a large underground construction workshop. TUCA will also have four teaching rooms, a test centre for online safety tests, a large refectory and a Learning Resource Centre.

The spokesman added, “An Industry Advisory Panel, comprising representatives from client and contractor organisations involved in underground construction, will ensure the training on offer at TUCA is world-class and responsive to the needs of industry. The Panel will include representatives of Thames Water and National Grid.”

The GBP 13M training centre should be fully open early in 2012. The spokesman added, “In addition to the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy, Crossrail has committed to delivering at least 400 apprentices through its supply chain over the lifetime of the project. The first 20 apprentices are now employed on Crossrail and this number will increase as intensive station construction and tunnelling gets underway.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said, “I am a huge supporter of the aims of this academy and I am thrilled that it is now enrolling its first students. At the height of construction many thousands of people will be working on Crossrail and it will provide a huge economic boost to the capital. Our new academy in east London will be a vital resource and Crossrail is working closely with job centres along the route to ensure as many local people as possible are able to learn the skills necessary to play a part in the largest construction project in the southeast for 50 years.”