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Lack of grooves to blame for Bristol runway fiasco

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AIRPORT PAVEMENT engineers have this week criticised the resurfacing technique used by Lagan Construction that led to massive disruption at Bristol Airport last weekend.

Thousands of journeys were disrupted or cancelled when pilots from 10 airlines refused to use the airport after some reported skidding on the runway and others veered off the taxiway in high cross winds due to a lack of grip.

Airport operator Bristol International Airport (BIA) accepted that grip had been temporarily reduced while Lagan worked on a 300m long section of the runway.

Bristol's 2,011m ong unway had a 300m long dip in the middle of it that BIA wanted reprofiling in the course of resurfacing the airport's runway and taxiways.

Working six nights a week Lagan built up the dip in 100mm base course layers to a new level 400mm higher than the starting level.

While carrying out this work the base course was not grooved. It is a requirement for the wearing course of runways to have grooves etched in them to improve drainage and grip.

A spokesman for Lagan Construction claimed that the company was following industry standards and the method was a widely used one.

Bristol International Airport head of engineering Carl Lapworth added that 'other airports have completed the whole runway without putting grooves in and planes have continued to land'.

However, pavement engineers contacted by NCE disagreed. 'You should never leave a large section ungrooved, ' said one. 'The case at Bristol Airport seems that they simply didn't progress the wearing course fast enough.' He added that the process of reprofi ing is slow and can take many weeks, but cutting the 4mm x 4mm grooves 25mm apart is an expensive process and cutting it into a temporary surface is not an attractive option.

He suggested that the 300m section should have been tackled in sections to reduce the amount of time the temporary surface was exposed.

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