London’s Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) is to expand and fulfil a national role at the cutting edge of Britain’s burgeoning rail engineering industry.

Set up in 2011 to support the urgent training needs of the Crossrail project, TUCA has been transferred over to TfL which has signed a contract with Prospects College of Advanced Technology (PROCAT) to run the Ilford-based college.

Over 15,000 men and women – many of them apprentices – have trained at the academy. Building on this vast portfolio of Crossrail-pioneered skills in tunnelling and underground construction, future rail and tunnelling projects will benefit from the knowledge and dynamics first witnessed at Ilford.

Apprentices will learn the skills required to build infrastructure projects across the country. Staff – some of whom may well travel to work on the line they helped build – will teach the high skills curricula needed to run the railways of the future and build HS2, Thames Tideway, Crossrail 2 and HS3.

Says Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, ‘It is essential we continue to develop the skills this country needs to deliver major infrastructure projects, from Crossrail 2 to HS2. The Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy has played a leading role in supporting the skills for the Crossrail project and will leave a lasting legacy with new apprentices learning the vital skills of tunnelling and construction.’

By the end of the year, the academy will also be home to the Elizabeth line maintenance and station staff training centre. A mock-up of a new station will also be on site later this year. The college includes a space to practice sprayed concrete lining in specially designed tunnel openings. As well as construction locomotives and a gantry crane, there’s a tunnel mock-up where, alarmingly entitled, Evacuation Simulations take place.

TUCA was established at Ilford by Crossrail Limited in 2011 at a cost of £13 million. Smart money is on further expansion of TUCA – the rail industry can ill afford not to.