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#TeamCrossrail Blog: Olivia Perkins, Tunnel Engineer - Crossrail Tottenham Court Road station

By Olivia Perkins, Tunnel Engineer

I came to work on Crossrail by chance – I never imagined I would have the opportunity to work on it.

When I graduated, I went for an interview with Kier Construction who I had gained work experience with and sponsorship from whilst at university and just by chance they placed me in the Bam Ferrovial Kier Joint Venture Crossrail tender office based in Victoria where my Crossrail experience began.

Olivia Perkins - SCL Tunnel Engineer_ BFK_126088

After a year there I moved to Tottenham Court Road, working firstly on the civils section excavating the Western Ticket Hall Box, and then joining the Spray Concrete Lining (SCL) tunnels team; something that I had never imagined doing until working on this project.

From spending all my time on site as a site/shift engineer, I now spend the majority of my time in the office. I arrive at 7.15-7.30am and have a chat to the night shift team about how the shift went and if any issues arose. A few team members will then head down to site to talk to the site team and get the latest about the on-going works.

Olivia Perkins - SCL Tunnel Engineer_ BFK_126249

There are then various meetings: in the morning we will have a team meeting, to plan the works for the day, and discuss current issues. The daily excavation and primary lining shift review group meetings have now been replaced by daily secondary lining meetings, with Crossrail and the designer in attendance, running through the works in hand. Then in the evening we will have a shift handover meeting with both day and night shift engineers in attendance to discuss the works and general quality and construction details so that everyone has a good understanding of what is required. Undertaking works on this scale truly has to be a team effort and good communication is key to that.

The majority of my time is spent planning for upcoming works, writing method statements/activity plans, reviewing drawings and speaking to the designer about any potential queries that need resolving, and addressing and resolving challenges as they arise from the works on site.

Olivia Perkins - SCL Tunnel Engineer_ BFK_126229

I escape down to site as much as I can as it is only from being in the tunnels and talking to the engineers and miners that you can have a true appreciation of what is going on but also enables me to tap into their experience to help me do my job better.

The people I have worked with have made the project what it is for me.

I have been very fortunate to work with some very knowledgeable managers, engineers, foremen, miners and tunnel superintendents - to name but a few - all of whom have taken the time to teach and guide me throughout my time of the project. Whenever you are having a difficult day, there is always someone there to support you. And of course, being part of a project which has such a tangible outcome, a railway that will be used by millions of people for 100+ years is pretty humbling.

Olivia Perkins - SCL Tunnel Engineer_ BFK_174128

We have had many milestones that we have met, some I thought were really were not possible but it has been great to be part of a team that has rallied together and risen to those challenges. Of particular note to me was being part of the successful Farringdon tender team and completion of the south box civil engineering work at the western ticket hall which was a great learning experience and the largest civils work I have been part of to date.

Then following that, from being totally new to Spray Concrete Lining, but being guided by some very experienced engineers and miners, to progressing to taking responsibility for planning the excavation and primary lining works has been quite a journey.

We recently completed the excavation of the last SCL tunnel at Tottenham Court Road, only a small 5 metre diameter cross passage connection to London Underground, but a highly significant milestone for me and the team.

It is very difficult explaining working in tunnels to friends and family as it is not equivalent to many things they will have experienced themselves. I usually describe what is going on in general terms such as the achievements and milestones met and showing them lots of pictures. It will be a privilege one day to take them to the Tottenham Court Road Station once up and running, showing them pictures of where they are standing when it was being built and just simply saying ‘I was part of that’.

There are so many exciting projects coming up in the near future but firstly I will be taking time to go to Kier head office to do a design placement whilst aiming to gain my Chartership. I will then hopefully move on to working on one of those big projects, such as HS2 or potentially doing a placement abroad.

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Click here to find out more about Crossrail’s Tottenham Court Road station.

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