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A tunnelling legacy to the UK construction industry

A tunnelling legacy to the UK construction industry

The establishment of a Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) is central to Crossrail's delivery plans and its legacy to the industry. TUCA will not only ensure that Crossrail has the skills needed for its construction but will be retained post-Crossrail as a specialist training centre for other tunnelling projects thereby acting as a legacy to the UK construction industry.

Crossrail’s state-of-the art training facility and Europe’s only specialist soft-ground tunnelling training facility, TUCA provides training for the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation, underground construction and infrastructure. 

Since opening in September 2011, over 10,000 people have been trained with skills and safety training required to operate effectively and safely in the tunnel network.

TUCA is expected to become a sector-led centre of excellence, delivering world-class skills and sustainable career opportunities, not just for Crossrail, but future infrastructure projects. The specialist skills and life-changing experience offered at TUCA will enable individuals to develop sustainable careers, with opportunities for future progression.

In 2014/15, the team at TUCA trained more than 3,100 people, across three key strands: pre-employment, workforce development and apprenticeships.

TUCA’s clientele is varied. It provides training and support to those looking for their first step in a new career through to those looking to build upon their existing skilled roles.  TUCA engages with employers across the entire tunnelling industry, ranging from large multi-nationals, through to SMEs within the supply chain. 

2014–15 highlights include:

  • 120 new supervisors and mentors participated in the innovative Frontline Leadership Programme
  • 1,102 learners gained Tunnel Safety Cards
  • 400 learners undertook the Tunnel Entry and Emergency Procedures courses 
  • 247 learners undertook the pre-employment courses

TUCA was successful in obtaining funding under the Employer Ownership of Skills (EOS) pilot, with plans to develop training programmes that are employer and sector driven. The ambition of EOS is to put more ownership of the skills agenda in the hands of employers. TUCA’s pilot will inform the government’s policy of skills funding, making it more demand-led, rather than driven by the learning providers that deliver training and workforce development programmes. By placing the funding with employers and driving up their own contributions, the quality and relevance of the training will be increased, resulting in more effective learning and better value from tax payers’ money.

The industry panel providing advice for the pilot will determine the skills required and in some cases, support the development of new courses that better fit the sector’s needs. Although in its early stages, the pilot project is proving to be very popular with its industry partners – a testament to the effectiveness and ambition that embodies TUCA. The ultimate ambition of the project is to commission over 4,800 learning activities, directly through the investment of the employer partnership.

Investing in tunnelling skills in the UK

The volume of tunnelling and underground construction work taking place in the Capital over the next decade is unprecedented with the Thames Tideway Tunnel, National Grid and EDF electricity cable tunnels all requiring significant numbers of skilled people. Longer term, tunnelling skills will be required for Crossrail 2 and High Speed 2

Crossrail oversaw the development of the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Ilford and will invest up to £7.5m, while £5m in funding has been provided by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills via the Skills Funding Agency. Further sponsorship has been provided by industry and more is pledged.

The Academy will eventually operate as an independent organisation and will become a long-term provider of underground construction skills for other major infrastructure projects. The Academy will also act as the London centre for the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE).

The training offered at TUCA will include:

  • Pre-employment training to help local people access construction jobs;
  • Tunnel Safety Card (mandatory requirement for Crossrail);
  • NVQ Level 2 Tunnel Operations (mandatory requirement for Crossrail);
  • NVQ Level 3 Supervisory Management;
  • Working at heights and in confined spaces;
  • Construction Plant Competence Scheme loco driver training;
  • ConstructionSkills Health and Safety Test;
  • Sprayed concrete applications;
  • Laboratory Technician training in materials testing; and
  • Apprenticeships in a range of tunnelling and construction related occupations.

TUCA is located at Aldersbrook Sidings on the border of Newham and Redbridge. The site is a ten minute walk from Ilford station making it easily accessible by train.​

For further information about TUCA’s training programmes and facilities visit the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy website:

10,000 People Employed

Over 10,000 people are currently working with Crossrail across 40 worksites throughout London and the South East.