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Euston alliancing team delivers the goods

ALLIANCING WAS used to deliver huge gains in time, cost and safety performance on remodelling of 'the Euston throat', members of the Railway Civil Engineers Association were told last week.

Members of the project team, representing Balfour Beatty, Railtrack and Westinghouse Signals, set out how round the clock working enabled completion of the complex contract on time, to budget and with minimal disruption to train operators.

Over the past 18 months, 16 platforms have been re-laid, 9km of track renewed, 3900m of drainage installed, 450km of signalling cable laid and 77,000t of ballast put down. And while all this was being done Virgin trains still managed to run 92% of its trains into and out of Euston.

The £180M project was let as a traditional contract to Balfour Beatty in early 1998. Alliancing was introduced early in 1999.

Alliance deputy director Dominic Baldwin explained the benefits. ' There is no man marking and no claim culture. It enables staff to focus on resolving issues and not protecting parties' personal interests, ' he said.

Project director Bob Webb claimed alliancing enabled those involved in the project to share information, contributing to a 'clear understanding of where risk lay and making risk management much easier.'

Before the improvement work was undertaken Euston was described as 'hopelessly inefficient'. The station struggled to cope with its 115,000 passengers and over 600 daily train movements. With demand predicted to increase, redevelopment was essential.

The Euston throat was last remodelled in the 1960s, with piecemeal additions and changes in subsequent years.

By the 1990s it had reached the end of its design life.

All materials had to be brought to site by train. Getting these trains in, while keeping passenger and freight services running, proved to be one of the hardest parts of the contract and was described by Webb as a 'logistical nightmare'.

Liaison with the train operating companies was essential, said Baldwin. Disruption to them was unavoidable, but by keeping them well informed, he explained, contingency plans could be drawn up .

Safety was the top priority on the contract. Working next to a live railway and a 25kV overhead line maximised the danger of errors resulting in fatality, Webb pointed out. 'It was essential that we had a robust safety system to ensure accidents didn't happen.'

Over 4,000 safety inductions were carried out, with regular safety audits of all processes conducted in an attempt to ensure that staff adhered to site rules.

Working so close to densely populated areas also posed environmental problems. Work was scheduled so that noisy operations took place in daytime. A dedicated phone line was set up for residents to register complaints, but logged just one complaint for every million man-hours worked.

Skills shortages also posed a problem, with the alliance being forced to bring staff in from abroad. Webb predicted skills shortages will hold the rail industry back from making faster progress in improving the country's infrastructure.

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