Terry Morgan, Crossrail Chairman, last night told the Sky News Channel’s Jeff Randall Live that despite fears to the contrary, the £15.9bn project will be completed.
“It is happening. We are already well under way,” said Morgan, “We’ve committed the best part of £1.5bn and we’re getting on with the programme. It is true to say that people can say, can you slow this down, can you change the scope, but the reality is that we would have to undo things that we’ve already started to do.”
Concerns were raised following shadow business secretary, Ken Clarke’s recent questioning of the project funding. Clarke said the nod would only be given to Crossrail by a future Conservative Government after it had undertaken an in depth look into the Treasury books.
The fear is that although preparations are well underway, tunnelling, which isn’t due to start until late 2011 could be severely cut back or even canned.
On a more positive note, Morgan has welcomed the announcement by Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, that the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) is to provide £5M of funding for a new tunnelling and underground construction academy.
“We are delighted to receive £5M in funding from the Learning & Skills Council. This is great news for the programme and great news for the tunnelling and underground construction industry. This decision means we can now progress our plans to build this fantastic training facility, which the industry so urgently needs.”
This employer-led training project is fully supported by Construction Skills, the British Tunnelling Society and Tunnel Skills who recognise that the Academy will provide the right environment to deliver skills essential to the sector.
The Academy will raise standards within the industry and lead to the development of innovative courses and new frameworks for Apprenticeships and other qualifications to address the skills shortage faced by the sector. It will provide training for up to 1,000 learners a year catering for all types of tunnelling.
This facility will meet the skills needs not only of Crossrail but also National Grid, London Underground, Thames Water, and EDF, among others.
The academy will be sited in Aldersbrook Sidings in Newham. Construction will commence later this year and is expected to be fully operational by the end 2010 beginning of 2011.
Crossrail is scheduled to be completed by 2017 at a cost of £15.9bn and will give an estimated £36bn economic boost to the UK.
The main training centre is approximately 4000m2 of new build. It will be a minimum of 10m in height and large enough to accommodate a TBM. It will create a safe working space, allowing for the re-creation of scenarios that are expected underground.
The Academy will provide and promote training for underground workers; improve and expand the skills of existing and new workers; raise standards within the UK tunnelling industry; and improve safety within the tunnelling industry.
The academy will provide new entrants to the industry with a clear line of sight to all possible roles within the industry from NVQ Level 1 to Level 5 with the majority of training offered being at level 2 or 3 in Underground Construction, Tunnelling Operations or Tunnelling Supervisory Skills. It will also contribute to Crossrail’s overall goal of delivering 400 apprenticeships across the supply chain.