NCE Tunnelling Festival Awards 2021 Hat Trick


The joint venture (JV) of Ferrovial Construction and Laing O’Rourke on the central section of the Tideway project has scooped three awards at the New Civil Engineer Tunnelling Festival. The recognitions included Tunnelling Team of the Year, for the JV’s self-delivery of several spray concrete lined (SCL) elements of the project. A team was established which moved seamlessly between the project’s sites. They constructed three 50-metre-deep shafts and five connection tunnels up to 200 metres in length. Significant challenges were faced excavating through different ground conditions, and this was compounded with the emergence of the pandemic. Despite this, the team set an exemplary safety record and culture, achieving outstanding production rates. Due to the consistently high performance, the remit of the team progressively increased, doubling the original scope of their work.

Next, the JV won the Health & Safety and Wellbeing Initiative of the Year for its hyperbaric intervention work. The presence of water deep underground means the environment sometimes needs to be pressurised with air to keep the work area free of water. This means when operatives periodically change the “teeth” at the front of the tunnel boring machine, they are working in a pressurised environment. The geology under parts of the Thames meant pressures of up to 5.3 bar needed to be imposed to achieve this. UK regulations stipulate that working in pressurised environments above 3.5 bar requires an exemption from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). The JV , liaising with the HSE for over 3 years, attained this exemption (the first ever granted in the UK). The arrival of COVID and associated prevention measures meant the exemption had to be reassessed. The team’s revised plan fully assured the HSE and the exemption was upheld enabling the team to finish the job to an excellent standard.

Finally, Ignacio Tognaccini, Tunnel Agent for the main tunnel secondary lining operation, was crowned Young Tunneller of the Year. This was in recognition of his technical aptitude and ability to deliver against challenging programmes; first in the assembly and launch of the tunnel boring machines and then in overseeing the main tunnel secondary lining operation. Ignacio was one of four of the JV’s young tunnellers shortlisted for awards this year, which included Alex Lake, Gonzalo Arrieta and Mikel Goirigolzarri Martinez. Ignacio said: “It’s an honour to have won this award. The magnitude and complexity of the Tideway project has made working on it a great learning experience and a memorable job. There’s a lot of work left to do, and I hope I can encourage aspiring tunnellers the same way my managers and colleagues have encouraged me”.

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The team has impressed every step of the way on this project. They’ve delivered against formidable engineering challenges and difficult environments with their tenacity, resourcefulness, and passion. Our joint experience has allowed us to deliver part of an infrastructure asset that will serve London for generations. We’re very proud of the talent our project is fostering and what we’ve achieved on Tideway so far and these industry recognitions affirm that.”

Viv Jones Project Director