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Tunnelling Expertise

6 December 2010

Costain is actively looking at increasing its pool of tunnelling specialists as several major national contracts loom.

Power and water projects form the two main sectors likely to require extensive tunnelling works in the next few years.

Tunnelling is a potentially lucrative field for Costain, says new Tunnelling Operations Director, Stephen Meadowcroft as the Company has relatively few rivals. "There aren't many companies that have that expertise. Having tunnelling in our armoury is a strength."

The current catchword in the power sector is 'resilience', says Meadowcroft.  In order to ensure that the power networks can continue to deliver Britain's energy needs in the future much new infrastructure will need to be built over the coming years.
To ensure Londoners can continue to enjoy safe, secure and reliable electricity supplies National Grid is embarking on a major replacement programme over the next decade and Costain has won a portion of the associated work on the tunnels that will house the new cabling.

The London Cable Replacement Tunnel will run across the capital from Hackney in the east to Willesden in the west. It will go via Kensal Green and from there, another tunnel will be driven to Wimbledon in southwest London - a total of 33km. Work is due to start by the end of this year, with tunnelling complete by 2014.

Developing this theme Mike Napier, Strategy and Business Development Director for Infrastructure, adds: "Many of the underground high-voltage cables serving our large cities are nearing the end of their lives. Digging up main routes into London to replace them would cause severe disruption so tunnelling under the capital is the most effective way to secure our energy supply for future generations."

Additionally, the Government's planned construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations, as well as new coal and wind-power stations, will need to be connected to the UK's power network.

Although the new nuclear stations will be located alongside their predecessors around the country, "The output from them is going to be very much greater so, in crude terms, they need more cables to link in to the national grid," explains Napier. They will also require tunnels to dispose of cooling water out to sea.

Despite the forthcoming cuts in government expenditure, the pressing need for more electricity capacity should mean that the new power stations escape the axe, both men believe.

Costain has recently re-emphasised its tunnelling credentials with the successful completion of a contract in West Ham, London, to remove the threat of sewer flooding to several hundred homes. And work is nearly 50% completed on 11km of tunnels to bring the wastewater treatment of the Brighton area up to modern standards.