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Please join the Australian Tunnelling Society, Queensland Chapter for a presentation titled “What Does NASA Know About Building a Tunnel?”, which aims to describe what systems assurance is and why it matters to tunnelling engineers.

Engineers are natural problem solvers. Have you ever looked at a tunnel or structure in use and thought ‘If only they had known that was how it would be used, they could have…?’

If we consider each element of built infrastructure in the context of its sustained intended purpose, then we have more of a chance of reducing those future challenges in service. We can assure the integration of all parts will create a complete functioning system of civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, electronic, software and human elements that can work together to fulfill a need. We can increase the likelihood that our contributions support achieving the complete benefits hoped for if we start out with the end purpose in mind.

The presentation will introduce the concept of systems engineering as an approach to assuring a system that meets the needs of the end user and is built correctly, taking the audience through a brief history of systems engineering as an approach to assure a mission critical system is designed and built right first time for its intended mission.

There will be consideration of whole of life challenges, with specific examples of where a whole of system approach early in the design could have solved those ‘if only’ moments for engineers who must fix things up after the tunnellers have gone.

The presentation will discuss the opportunities and challenges of being the early contributors to the overall system design, and include thoughts of how tunnelling engineers are already using systems engineering processes and techniques to get their tunnel right, including blast design, pilot tunnels and modelling.


Jane Copperthwaite, BEng (Hons), CPEng, FIEAust, MIRSE, RPEQ

Systems Assurance Manager, Cross River Rail

Jane Copperthwaite is a Chartered Professional Engineer and Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Australia. Jane started her career with British Rail in 1991 as a signalling and telecommunications engineer. She gained her ground up rail experience working in rail maintenance and asset management and this gave her a whole-of-life and whole-of-system understanding of the railway. Jane progressed into project engineering management with a rail infrastructure renewal contractor where she was the assurance lead for a number of multi discipline network enhancement projects. In 2007 Jane moved to Australia leaving infrastructure projects to join signalling supplier Ansaldo STS. She was subsequently appointed their Global Head of Systems Engineering. After Ansaldo STS, Jane took up consulting, specialising in systems assurance using systems engineering. Over the past four years she has primarily been involved in assignments relating to the Cross River Rail projects and last year was appointed to her current position as Systems Assurance Manager for the CRR Program with the Cross River Rail Delivery Authority.