Tunnel Engineer

Qualifications

A-levels

Maths, Physics, Chemistry, German

Degree

Civil Engineering with European Studies at Southampton University

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Sue is a civil engineer working on the Thames Tideway tunnel – a major project to clean up London’s Victorian sewer system.

"Approximately 39 million tonnes of sewage go into the river every year at the moment," explains Sue. Spanning 22 kilometres, the Thames Tideway tunnel will collect overflow from the dirtiest of these sewers and carry it away to be treated. "It will be one of the deepest tunnels ever built in this country," adds Sue.

What's more, this engineering exploit will take place right under Londoners' feet. Sue's job is to make sure the tunnel”s construction doesn”t damage any existing infrastructures or interfere with Londoner's daily lives.

"There are already a lot of underground tunnels in London including the Tube tunnels, large communication tunnels and some water tunnels," she says.  "We need to ensure that people can continue to travel safely on the Tube and also make sure that any supplies such as water and electricity remain available to people in their houses."

One of Sue's most challenging tasks is working out how the tunnel might affect some of London's historic icons. "Tower Bridge was built a long time ago and some of the drawings of how it was built are quite old", she explains. "It takes a long time to look at them, understand how that structure is built and therefore look at how our tunnel could impact on it."

At school, Sue enjoyed physics, maths and problem solving, so studying engineering at university made perfect sense to her. "I thought engineering would be an interesting subject and would lead to a career that would provide daily differences in my job, lots of challenges and problems to solve," she explains.

Sue manages a team of civil engineers and works alongside mechanical, electrical, tunnelling and hydraulics engineers, so team work is vital. "Lots of people bring different skills and we all have to work together," she says.

"My favourite part of my job is taking a problem and providing a solution," says Sue. "It's not always straightforward and can sometimes take quite a long time but it's always very satisfying when that solution is achieved."

Find out more about engineering on the Tomorrow’s Engineers website.

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