London, with its world-class facilities and abundant tourist attractions, is the destination of a bid by the British Tunnelling Society (BTS) to host the World Tunnel Congress and ITA General Assembly in 2019.
The steering committee of the bid presented its comprehensive proposal to the Executive Council of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA-AITES) by the deadline of early January 2016. This is well in time for the vote by the 74 ITA Member Nation representatives at the WTC General Assembly in San Francisco in April 2016.
To compete for the coveted annual event, BTS submitted a proposal of more than 100 pages that describes the many reasons to support London in 2019 as the right time and perfect place for the international gathering of the world tunneling and underground space engineering community and its global representative association. By 2019, the U.K., and the world’s top travel destination of London in particular, will be celebrating the completion of impressive underground projects, the progress of others, and the start of more.
Crossrail, one of the largest current infrastructure projects in Europe, will be completed and in service to provide international visitors a 45 minute high-speed ride from Heathrow Airport directly to the International Convention Centre venue of the ExCel exhibition centre. The purpose built ICC of ExCel is itself alongside the London City Airport, the financial district of Canary Wharf, the 2012 London Olympic Park, and the transport services of London Underground stations, the Docklands Light Rail network and the River Thames Clipper bus services.
At the same time, major tunneling investment for the Thames Tideway CSO project in London will be underway and substantial works of the second high-speed rail link in the U.K., from London to Birmingham, will be progressing.
Also in 2019, the U.K. and its project collaborator France, will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel undersea rail link connection; the Institution of Civil Engineers will be celebrating its 200th anniversary; and the Brunel Tunnel will have provided more than 175 years of continuous service under the River Thames at Rotherhithe.
The U.K. is recognized as a spiritual home of modern era underground and tunnel engineering, with the Brunel Tunnel being the first subaqueous tunnel through soft ground and using a mechanical shield. From there, British engineers have continued the process of development and innovation, culminating today in the application of state-of-the-art techniques and the introduction of new systems in the fields of robotics, electronics and installations for long-term monitoring of underground structures through their design-life.
This historic and current connection to the tunneling industry in the U.K. inspired selection by the BTS of the conference theme From Pioneering to Modern Possibilities.
As well as a top quality conference of technical sessions and the meetings for on-going operation of the ITA-AITES, London is a highly attractive and popular destination for delegates, visitors and their families. To ensure a visit to remember, the organizing committee has included an exciting social program to include events at the Tate Modern Art Gallery, the overhead walkway of Tower Bridge, the great room of Mansion Houset Palace of the Lord Mayor of London, and the iconic Tower of London fortress. Associated events will also be arranged in the impressive building of the Institution of Civil Engineers at Great George Street, itself within walking distance of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the or so familiar Big Ben clock tower.
The U.K. and the BTS have a long connection with the ITA-AITES. It is one of the original founding nations of the Association and Sir Alan Muir Wood, as its first President (1974 – 1977), became its Life-Time Honorary President. The annual Muir Wood Memorial Lecture in the opening session of every WTC is a legacy to Sir Alan’s commitment to the worldwide tunneling and underground space construction industry.
BTS then nominated and supported two further U.K. Presidents of the ITA in Colin Kirkland (1989 – 1992) and Martin Knights (2007 – 2010). In addition, BTS members are heavily involved in the ITA Working Groups and the foundation of the ITA Young Members forum. BTS remains a champion of the workings of ITA and its future expansion. BTS last hosted the WTC and ITA General Assembly in 1991.