Civil engineer wins prestigious award for ground-breaking tunnelling invention

The brainchild behind the invention of the Bentonite Tunnelling Machine has been recognised for his “outstanding contributions to tunnel design and construction”.

Civil engineering pioneer John Bartlett has been rewarded one of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s highest accolades, the Sir Frank Whittle Medal. The award, which is presented to an engineer “whose sustained achievements have had a profound impact upon their engineering discipline”, was presented to Bartlett for his dedication to “transforming tunnelling technology over the past 60 years”, including the design of the UK side of the Channel Tunnel.

Alongside his invention of the Bentonite Tunnelling Machine, Bartlett has been the forerunner of all the world’s tunnel-boring machines for loose, sandy soils. The pioneering Bentonite Tunnelling Machine, developed in the 1970s, features a face which is supported by a thixotropic, enabling a new method of driving tunnels through granular, non-cohesive soils above or below the water table.

Upon accepting the award, Bartlett said: “Civil engineering today is a team game. I hope members of my team will enjoy sharing the recognition given by this award. Many thanks to those who put me forward.”

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