Tunnelling pioneer receives RAE award

Tunnelling pioneer and civil engineer John Bartlett has been awarded the UK Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RAE) prestigious Sir Frank Whittle Medal.

RAE President Professor Dame Ann Dowling presents the award to John Bartlett. Photographer: Rob Lacey.

The medal honours engineers whose sustained achievements have had a profound impact on their engineering discipline.

It was awarded to Mr Bartlett in recognition of his ongoing contributions to tunnel design and construction.

Mr Bartlett has more than six decades’ experience in the industry – he spent most of his career with consulting engineers Mott Hay and Anderson, working at the company from 1957 until his retirement as Chair and Senior Partner in 1988 – and his work has transformed tunnelling technology.

Among many other achievements, his invention of the bentonite tunnelling machine – a precursor to all tunnel boring machines (TBM) designed for non-cohesive soils – is one of the most significant.

Prior to the invention of the bentonite tunnelling machine, works in a complex geology could be dangerous, with ground water flooding the site a serious risk.

Mr Bartlett developed and patented his tunnelling machine in 1964, basing its design on a cut and cover method he observed during metro construction in Milan.

The machine he designed used a pressurised bentonite slurry to balance water pressure and stabilise the tunnel during installation, and eventually became to prototype for a new class of slurry tunnelling machines.

Mr Bartlett has been involved in numerous significant projects, including designing the UK side of the Channel Tunnel, as well as working on the first Dartford Tunnel, the first tunnelled sections of the Toronto Subway and working as the lead project engineer London’s Victoria Line.

RAE President Professor Dame Ann Dowling presented the award to Mr Bartlett  at the organisation’s annual general meeting in London on 18 September.

“Civil Engineering today is a team game,” said Mr Bartlett.

“I hope members of my team will enjoy sharing the recognition given by this award. Many thanks to those who put me forward.”

Institution of Civil Engineers President Lord Robert Mair said Mr Bartlett’s contributions to the industry generated significant change.

“There can be no doubt that a major revolution in the worldwide tunnelling industry was triggered by John Bartlett’s invention of the bentonite tunnelling machine,” said Mr Mair.

“It has enabled a rapid increase in tunnel construction around the world, particularly in urban areas, for water supply, sanitation and transport – with remarkable benefit to humanity.”

For more information visit the RAE website.

If you have news you would like featured in Trenchless International contact Assistant Editor Chloe Jenkins at cjenkins@gs-press.com.au

Image supplied by the Royal Academy of Engineers.

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