Costain’s new director of tunnelling operations, Stephen Meadowcroft, said that tunnelling is a potentially lucrative field for the company because so few companies specialise in the field. "There aren't many companies that have that expertise. Having tunnelling in our armoury is a strength," he said.
To ensure power supply to the capital, National Grid is embarking on a major replacement programmein London 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 this month, with tunnelling complete by 2014.
Mike Napier, Costain’s strategy and business development director for infrastructure, added "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."
Further tunnelling will be required to connect the government's planned new generation of nuclear power stations, as well as new coal and wind-power stations, to the power network. Napier said that although the new nuclear stations will be located alongside their predecessors around the country, they will need more cables because of the expanded output capacity.
Costain is confident that the pressing need for more electricity capacity should mean that the new power stations will be safe from cuts in government expenditure.
Costain recently completed a tunnelling 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.