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UK’s only Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy 'topped out'

By Jonathan Baggs

UK’s only Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy 'topped out'
  • Crossrail gears up to deliver lasting skills and employment legacy as preparations underway to train at least 3,500 people to work underground

  • Work now underway to fit-out the £13.5m Academy ahead of its full opening in September 2011

  • Academy will be a one-stop shop for training in tunnelling and underground construction and includes a simulated Tunnel Boring Machine environment

  • Following Crossrail, the Academy will remain to train workers for other major infrastructure projects including London water and electricity tunnels

Crossrail’s commitment to building a lasting skills legacy has taken a major step forward with the completion of structural building work on the UK Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA). Crossrail and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills via the Skills Funding Agency have invested up to £12.5m in the Academy which will train at least 3,500 people to work on Crossrail.

Located at Aldersbrook in East London, TUCA aims to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on Crossrail and other major tunnelling projects in London and across the UK, as well as the potential to assist European projects including Dublin Metro.

It will provide training on the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation and underground construction. The only other tunnelling training facility in Europe is located in Switzerland.

A ‘topping out’ ceremony has been held as the building is now water-tight. Work will now get underway to fit-out the Academy and turn it into a state of the art training facility. Set over two levels, the Academy will include a simulated tunnel boring machine environment, a sprayed concrete lining training facility, workshop space and teaching rooms. The Academy’s size extends to 3,600 sq. metres to provide sufficient space for the facilities required to safely train people to work in underground construction.

Terry Morgan, Chairman of Crossrail, said: “Two years on from the start of main construction, and with the first tunnel boring machine starting out on its journey in less than a year from now, we are concentrating our efforts to provide people with the necessary skills to build this great railway.

“Crossrail has a vital role to play in supporting wider regeneration as well as creating a major skills legacy. The new Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy is not only a UK first but will support the economy by equipping workers with the specialist skills they need to meet the demand for labour in this area, both for Crossrail and for other major infrastructure projects. It will completely revitalise the UK’s skills base and raise safety standards across the construction industry.”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: “While the Crossrail project will transform rail travel for London and deliver significant benefits to the UK economy, this new academy will revolutionise the UK’s labour market by training a new generation of highly specialised underground construction workers able to work on major global tunnelling infrastructure projects.” 

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said: “One of the incredible benefits of Crossrail is the skills that it will deliver to those working on the project; and the Tunnelling Academy being built in east London is set to be a centre of excellence, not just for the thousands of Londoners who will work on Crossrail, but for people working on tunnelling projects all over the world.”

TUCA will start to offer training this summer and the building will be fully open by September 2011. The Academy will offer training to at least 3,500 people over the lifetime of the Crossrail project. It will then operate as an independent organisation and 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).

There is currently no standardised training provision for those in the tunnelling industry, with the majority of new entrants trained on the job. TUCA will provide an opportunity for nationally-accredited technical and safety training, to ensure that underground safety awareness and best practice are prioritised and standardised across the industry.

All those working underground on Crossrail will be required to obtain a Tunnel Safety Card before they can start work. This is a specially developed health and safety test which has become a specialist unit of the nationally recognised Construction Skills Certification Scheme Health and Safety Test. This will be one of the first training products on offer from summer 2011.

Training at TUCA will be driven by the needs of the construction industry. The initial programme will be focused on delivering suitably skilled and safe workers who are qualified to work underground. Besides the Tunnel Safety Card, by September 2011 training at TUCA will include the NVQ Level 2 in Tunnelling Operations and NVQ Level 3 in Tunnelling Operations Supervisory Skills. All the training will be delivered by a specialist skills provider who is expected to be appointed next month.

The majority of students attending the academy will come from the contractor’s existing workforce but Crossrail is working with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Skills Funding Agency to support the delivery of pre-employment training opportunities, which will offer new entrants a route into the industry.

Crossrail has also partnered with Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to ensure that local people along the route are informed of training and employment opportunities on the programme. All Crossrail contractors are required to advertise any new opportunities with Jobcentre Plus 48 hours before they are advertised elsewhere. Jobcentre Plus works with a network of local job brokerages and outreach agencies to match vacancies to suitable candidates and prepare them for interview.

Crossrail is committed to delivering a minimum of 400 apprenticeships through its supply chain over the lifetime of the project, and is looking to deliver more. All main works contractors are obliged to deliver one apprentice (or equivalent) per £3m spend. Crossrail is working in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service to support contractors employed on Crossrail in delivering apprenticeship programmes.

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For further information and pictures of TUCA’s construction, please contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email:

Notes to Editors

Download Crossrail Media Briefing Note - Tunnelling Academy and Skills, 16-05-2011

Crossrail is overseeing the development of TUCA and will invest up to £7.5m, while £5m in funding has been provided by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills via the Skills Funding Agency. Further sponsorship has been pledged by Fujitsu, National Grid, Interocean Personnel Services and New Civil Engineer magazine. Additional plant and equipment sponsorship and inward investment is being sought from Crossrail’s contractors and the wider industry.

The building was designed by architects Capita Symonds and is being constructed by contractors VolkerFitzpatrick.

About Crossrail:

Crossrail will run 118 km from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will bring an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes commuting distance of London's key business districts. 

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration across the capital, helping to secure London's position as a world leading financial centre, and cutting journey times across the city. 

Crossrail will deliver substantial economic benefits for all of London and the South East. Latest economic forecasts suggest that Crossrail will add £42bn to the economy.

Up to 14,000 people will be employed at the peak of construction in 2013/2015.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.


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