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Echoes of Heathrow

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UK tunnelling experts this week said there were marked similarities between events leading to the Nicoll Highway collapse and those foreshadowing the Heathrow Express tunnel collapse in October 1994.

Contractual complexity with poor definition of responsibilities and inadequate lines of communication combined with lack of interaction between designers and constructors were key factors in both catastrophes.

Even though Heathrow Express was tunnelled using the NATM technique and Nicoll Highway was a cut and cover job, UK experts expressed amazement that a major tunnel collapse could occur for such similar reasons close to a decade later.

'There was a very detailed analysis and dissemination of information after Heathrow. I thought that lessons had been learned, ' said one source.

Independent consultant and former Health & Safety Executive senior specialist inspector John Anderson said it was worrying that so many UK engineers had been involved in the Singapore disaster.

UK geotechnical experts were involved in the project on the client, designer and contractor sides.

Anderson warned that all parties involved in the proposed London Crossrail tunnel should treat Nicoll Highway as a wake up call.

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