The theme of the World Tunnel Congress 2020 has conscientiously been chosen to timely reflect the innovation achievements in the efforts of ITA-AITES in promoting the use of tunnels and underground spaces for the benefits of public, environment and sustainable development for the past almost half century since its establishment in 1974.

Growing numbers of underground innovations claim to hold the key to unlocking the door to a ‘smarter urban connectivity’. More often than not, these innovations are being embedded into highly complex underground projects that aim to minimise environmental hazards, to save energy, to increase the functional diversity of the urban structure, to reduce the need of local transportation, to make services more easily accessible to people, and to protect both the urban landscape and culture for sustainable urban development. Malaysia’s advantage in gaining a significant share of this engineering feat lies in its existing strengths in underground infrastructure, innovative environment and strong history and political will to tackle sustainability challenges. The innovative and unique SMART tunnel, the first of its kind dual-purpose tunnel in the world is a best example of Malaysia's own underground development success story. This example became well-known worldwide as an effective solution to optimise expenditures to tackle two issues, i.e. flooding and heavy traffic congestion. The tunnel is expected to prevent billions of dollars in losses due to possible flood damages and from heavy traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur’s city centre. It was listed as one of the top 10 world’s greatest tunnels by CNN. SMART project won the British Construction Industry International Award in 2008 and received the UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award in 2011 for its innovative and unique management of stormwater and peak hours traffic.

“When we judge by the progress in the use of underground space in Malaysia the progress has been remarkable. This is an indication of the fact that Malaysian professionals have not only learned from the training, but most important, have developed their own expertise to come up with ingenious underground solutions to their problems.” cited by Prof. Tarcisio B. Celestino, the Immediate Past President of ITA.

INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABLE UNDERGROUND SERVING GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY” is more than a slogan for ITA-AITES and its members, it is both a challenge and a commitment to contribute to sustainable development. It is our great honour to share with the global tunnelling fraternity, Malaysia’s little success story in innovative tunnelling and underground solutions. The technical presentations based on this opportune theme would be a key to the success of WTC 2020. We would be delighted if we could inspire a whole new generation of tunnellers to be interested in both the works and achievements of ITA-AITES.