ACCOLADES & AWARDS
40 years of BTS and going strongOct 2011
Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk
The BTS rarely needs cause to gather and celebrate. You could say, wherever two or more members of the British Tunnelling Society meet, anywhere around the world, there is a mini BTS meeting.
Sir Harold Harding, founding Chairman of the BTS in 1971
Wednesday evening this week was special however. It gathered members of the Society from across the years and home from across the globe to celebrate its 40th year of activity after the original group established the BTS in 1971.
Among those founding members of highly influential civil engineers, Fellows of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and deeply involved with the tunnelling industry in the UK and internationally at the time, was Sir Harold Harding of Golder Associates, the first Chairman. As an associate society of the ICE, the original committee of the BTS also included Sir Alan Muir Wood of Halcrow, John Bartlett of Mott Hay & Anderson (now Mott MacDonald), and John King of Mowlem, who all served in their time as Chairmen of the Society. Many others followed, and the celebrations on Wednesday evening in the Telford Theatre, and the Great Room for the dinner afterwards, brought many of these original members and chairmen together. These included John Bartlett and John King as well as original members Maurice Gooderham (at that time with Thyssen GB) and former chairmen Douglas Parkes, Oliver Bevan, David Donaldson, Colin McKenzie, Eric Snowdon, Peter South, David Court, Bill Grose, Paul Hoyland. All were welcomed by current Chairman, Bob Ibell.
The evening started in the usual way with tea in the Buttery before the crowd headed to the Telford Theatre for a presentation by David Donaldson that looked back at 40 years of a career in tunnelling and of BTS activity. Andrew Wolstenholme, now CEO of the UK's largest ever tunnelling project, Crossrail, explored a theme of the perspective of the future.
Table 1. BTS chairmen 1971-2012
Sir Harold Harding
Sir Alan Muir Wood
Sir Alan Muir Wood
Mott Hay & Anderson
C V Buchan
C V Buchan
Mott Hay & Anderson
Dr Terry Mellors
Babtie Shaw & Morton
1999- Nov 2000
Nov 2000- 2002
London Bridge Associates
Donaldson's presentation was a memorable performance by a gifted raconteur, related in a straightforward Scottish manner, and riddled with anecdotes and memories that had the audience reeling on occasions. He introduced himself as a hairy-kneed young engineer from the Highlands, arriving in London 40 years ago in his kilt, and armed with a slide rule and volumes of tables to join one of the leading tunnelling firms, now no longer in existence.
He went on to explain how so much has changed since his introduction to the business. There were no mobile phones, computers, or even calculators at that time, he reminded us, and no hard-hats, masks, gloves, goggles or earplugs for the workers or the visitors to the faces, as he illustrated in slides. His presentation continued to walk us through the many tunnelling projects completed in the UK through the last four decades - the knowledgeable audience of course noting the ones he left out - as well as changes that have taken place within the industry. The leading companies - consultants, contractors and manufacturers - that are no more; the highlights of the UK industry's achievements; many a story about projects and leading individuals that the audience knew of and were well-pleased to be reminded of.
Wolstenholme, of Crossrail, acknowledged that Donaldson was a hard act to follow but brought the audience up to date with where the industry stands today, emphasising the higher demands not only on health and safety of the workers, but the need within the tunnelling industry for a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce. He welcomed the many young engineers in the audience, most of them members of the BTS Young Members group, and introduced the work of the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy that Crossrail has sponsored and continues to promote as an important source of the many workers that will be needed for Crossrail and other tunnelling projects in the London and UK region over the coming years. More than 4,500 skilled workers will be needed by this and other projects at peak, not all underground in tunnel excavation posts but certainly on large projects with major tunnelling elements.
From the Telford Theatre it was across to the Great Room for dinner. Tables of glittering glassware greeted us, as did a wonderful meal prepared and served superbly by the catering department of the ICE, and shared in great company and camaraderie at each table before networking began after the coffees and speeches.
Corporate members at last count
Colin McKenzie gave a presentation about the growth of the BTS over the years, from a small core of professionals to membership that now numbers more than 700 individual and 70 corporate members. He reminded the group how the BTS had to support financially a video link to the Great Room on BTS meeting evenings to accommodate the overflow from the Telford Theatre when audiences started breaking safety rules by sitting in the aisles and standing at the doorways. He reminded us also that BTS evenings generate the largest takings for the month in the bar, testimony to the fact that the Society remains welcoming to all engineers who might pass through London on the third Thursday of the month from September to June each year and fancy joining a BTS presentation and/or the crack in the bar afterwards; a close-knit group that enjoys the company and networking opportunities presented by monthly meetings; and the sense of community that binds all members - young and old - across the disciplines of consultants, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers; and across also the competitive divide, consultants with consultants, contractors to fellow contractors and within the supply industries. There is much to discuss and learn in the Buttery Bar, but of course, what goes on in the Buttery stays in the Buttery and all said in the Buttery is off the record - honest.
From left: Bob Ibell, David Donaldson, Andrew Wolstenholme
The Great Room prepared for the celebrations
It was a wonderful evening, a fine excuse for another get-together, after celebrating not three weeks earlier the 30th anniversary of the BTS James Clark Medal awards. John King also made a short address as a former Chairman and one of those heavily involved in the Channel Tunnel heyday for the BTS, before Bob Ibell, current Chairman, drew the evening to close, reminding everyone of the work that the current committee progresses and carries on. This includes the UK membership, via the BTS, of the International Tunnelling Association - a body that it was instrumental in founding in 1974 and of which the BTS has had three Presidents including its first, Sir Alan Muir Wood, who became it Honorary Life President; Colin Kirkland and Martin Knights. It also includes the publication of leading tunnelling codes of practice and guidelines - the newest on the art of designing and installing timber support by Colin McKenzie and a best practice guide on instrumentation and monitoring that follow so many earlier publications on risk management, the operation of closed face tunnelling machines, guidelines on the prevention of hand and arm vibration syndrome, the control of nitrogen oxides in the work place and many more.
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