LTA and SIT establish Centre for Infrastructure and Tunnel Engineering

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a Centre for Infrastructure and Tunnel Engineering (CITE) in Singapore. The partnership seeks to foster greater collaboration in research & development, as well as educational and training programmes in this highly-specialised field of infrastructure and tunnelling engineering.

“As cities around the world become more urbanised, many mega-infrastructure projects for land transport, waste management and other utility services such as transmission cable tunnels for power services are increasingly being built underground. In land-scarce Singapore, expertise for tunnel engineering and infrastructural development will continue to be in demand,” said LTA and SIT in their joint statement.

The CITE will serve as a platform for the civil engineering community to exchange and deepen their knowledge and skill sets in this field. The centre will also conduct and facilitate applied research to augment safety standards in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of tunnels and other civil engineering infrastructure.

According to both partners, this initiative will be beneficial for Singapore’s major underground projects in the next few decades, which include the Cross Island Line, North-South Corridor and Deep Tunnel Sewerage Systems. To build up manpower capabilities, the CITE will develop and offer customised training courses to reskill and upskill local professionals in infrastructure and tunnel engineering.

“Our rail lines and road projects are going deeper underground to allow for better use of above ground spaces and to preserve our natural environment. This requires specialised domain knowledge, and the CITE can help build a steady pool of tunnel engineers with a mix of civil engineering and geotechnical knowledge to support our efforts,” said LTA’s chief executive Ng Lang.

Professor Tan Thiam Soon, president of SIT explained that the CITE will “leverage SIT’s strengths in applied learning and industry collaboration to promote innovation and groom talent. We envision the centre to be at the forefront of cutting-edge applied research and training in Singapore, readying future graduates and workforce to meet the challenges of ever-evolving infrastructure and tunnel developments.”

Certification course in tunnel engineering

To uplift industry standards, the CITE has collaborated with Singapore’s Professional Engineers Board (PEB) to develop a customised certification course in tunnel engineering. It will upskill professionals specialising in bored and mined tunnelling projects and supports Professional Engineers (Civil) in attaining accreditation as Specialist Professional Engineer in Tunnel Engineering.

Conducted by SIT faculty members as well as LTA’s tunnel engineers and industry experts, the course’s modules are specifically tailored to provide participants with information and case studies in the local context, such as the geology of Singapore and tunnel design, tunnelling construction, and tunnelling operation and impact assessment.

The partners said a pilot run of the course in March 2021 attracted 30 industry professionals who will be completing the programme in the first quarter of 2022. Interested applicants can apply for subsequent runs of the course through the SITLEARN website.

The CITE will also serve as a platform to build a pipeline of qualified young professionals looking to join the industry, added the partners. Through the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP) attachment to the centre, civil engineering undergraduates at SIT will have the opportunity to acquire in-depth knowledge and work experience in infrastructure and tunnel engineering.

The IWSP is a distinctive feature of SIT’s degree programmes, where students undertake six to 12 months of paid employment relevant to their programmes during the course of their studies. Postgraduate students can also engage with the industry through collaboration with the centre for their Industrial Master and Doctorate projects.

The two partners further mentioned that to keep pace with emerging trends and promote state-of-the-art industry practices, the CITE will conduct and facilitate applied research in infrastructure and tunnel engineering to create industry-specific solutions. Areas of research include digitalisation and sustainability in civil engineering. For example, an ongoing project which LTA and SIT are jointly carrying out looks into the design, detailing, and specification of reinforced concrete cut-and-cover tunnels for crack control, water tightness, and durability.

By engaging government agencies and industry players, the centre aims to improve companies’ productivity, expertise and technology in infrastructure and tunnel engineering. Beyond applied research, the centre will also grow industry knowledge through the sharing of best practices via technical seminars, workshops and by providing consultancy services.

Image: SIT