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Work set to start on Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA)

By Jonathan Baggs

Work is set to start on a new academy which will give thousands of young people the skills and training needed to kick-start a career in construction after VolkerFitzpatrick was notified of Crossrail's intention to award the contract to them.

Next month sees the start of the new Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) in east London, which will use Crossrail, Europe's largest transport infrastructure project, to offer training to at least 3,500 people in underground construction alone over the lifetime of the project

Crossrail at its peak will employ some 14,000 people and will provide a crucial boost for London's economy. The Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy aims to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on Crossrail and other tunnelling projects across the UK.

TUCA will start to offer training in spring 2011 and the building will be fully open by summer 2011. Following the completion of Crossrail the academy will remain providing a lasting legacy for London and the UK construction industry.

The establishment of a Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy is an important part of Crossrail meeting its commitments to improve skills and create employment opportunities within the industry. It will provide training on the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation and underground construction.

The Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy will be a purpose-built facility providing training on the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation and underground construction. Whist the UK has tunnelling expertise and knowledge there is not a purpose-built training facility in the UK to act as a focal point for the industry. Currently the nearest tunnelling and underground training centre is in Switzerland.

The Academy will be located at Aldersbrook Sidings on the border of Newham and Redbridge, close to Ilford town centre. Enabling works are currently taking place on site ahead of main construction starting.

Crossrail tunnelling activity will get underway in late 2011. In just over one year from now the first tunnel boring machines will start on their journey from Royal Oak towards Farringdon. This will be followed shortly by the launch of further tunnel boring machines in Docklands that will head towards Farringdon under central London. Teams of dedicated construction workers will be working 24 hours a day to complete the tunnels with thousands of others employed to upgrade the existing rail network and build major new stations along the central section of the route.

Terry Morgan, Crossrail Chairman, said: “As well as delivering much needed additional rail capacity, Crossrail has an important role to play in supporting regeneration and the economy. Ensuring that job opportunities are made available to Londoners - and that Londoners have the skills required - is a vital part of Crossrail's approach to construction.

“Contractors winning work with Crossrail will recruit and employ local people along the construction route and it is likely many of these people will attend training at the Academy. This will ensure that we have people with the right skills in place to deliver Crossrail for London and many other vital infrastructure projects in the future.”

The volume of tunnelling and underground construction work taking place in the UK over the next decade is unprecedented. Aside from Crossrail, Thames Water will be constructing the Thames Tideway Tunnel sewerage scheme while National Grid will be constructing new electricity cable tunnels under London.

Crossrail needs the new Academy to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on construction of the new railway. The Academy will ensure that all people working underground on Crossrail sites achieve the Underground Safety Passport. Crossrail anticipates that 3,500 underground workers will require training of some sort over the lifetime of the project.

To meet the needs of the Crossrail construction programme, training at the Academy will initially be provided to people working on Crossrail to meet the needs of the construction timetable. The training at the Academy will include National Vocational Qualifications such as NVQ Level 2 in Tunnelling Operations. The course content for this is currently being developed.

The Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy will provide training for contractors working on other major London tunnelling projects, as well as the potential to assist European projects including Dublin Metro. The new Academy will ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people with the skills to work safely in underground construction to satisfy industry demand.

Crossrail will also leave a skills legacy for London and the UK. It is planned that the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy will be operated as an independent organisation once the Crossrail construction is complete and become a long-term provider of tunnelling skills to the construction industry.

Ends

For further information contact Jonathan Baggs, Crossrail Press Office on 0203 229 9552 or email pressoffice@crossrail.co.uk

Notes to editors

In line with European procurement requirements, a minimum ten day standstill period will apply before the award of contract can be confirmed. The contract covers completion of design through to the construction, testing and commissioning of the new academy building.

The value of the construction contract for the building the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy is in the region of £6m.

A notice was placed in the Official Journal of the European Union in October 2009 seeking expressions of interest for the Tunnelling Academy construction contract. The closing date for expressions of interest was 29 October 2009.

The following organisations were shortlisted and invited to tender: Laing O’Rourke; Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd; Volkerfitzpatrick; VINCI Construction UK Ltd; Mansell Construction Services; ROK Building Ltd. The Invitation to Tender was issued on 11 May 2010.

Crossrail is currently working with the Skills Funding Agency, as well as other major tunnelling clients and providers of plant and equipment to jointly fund the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy.

£5m in funding for the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy has been provided by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) via the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

Opportunities for training at the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy will primarily be through contractors working on Crossrail and other similar underground construction projects.

Crossrail launched its Skills and Employment Strategy in July 2010. Up to 14,000 people will be employed at the peak of construction of the railway between 2013 and 2015 giving Londoners the chance to build and benefit from Crossrail. The Strategy sets out how local people will be provided with opportunities to work on the construction of Crossrail, which is crucial to regeneration across the capital, will help to secure London's position as a world leading financial centre, and cut journey times across the city.

Crossrail has committed to deliver a minimum of 400 Apprenticeships through its supply chain over the lifetime of the project and hopes to exceed this number. Apprenticeships will be offered from late 2010 as contracts are awarded. Crossrail is working in partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to support contractors employed on Crossrail in delivering apprenticeship programmes.

Crossrail has also announced a partnership with Jobcentre Plus (JCP) which aims to provide local people with opportunities to work on the Crossrail project. JCP works with a network of local job brokerage and outreach agencies to match vacancies to suitable candidates and arrange interviews for short-listed applicants.