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Ailie MacAdam & Bill Tucker: Thinking it through

The major construction phase may not yet be in full swing, but success hinges on detailed planning now.

Crossrail is fast becoming synonymous with change. Not only is it the aim of this project to overhaul commuters’ experience of London transport, but the organisation charged with making it happen is going through its own transition too.

All of which makes for a rewarding time for the team delivering it − including Ailie MacAdam, delivery director for stations and quality, and Bill Tucker, delivery director for tunnels, portals and shafts. Both are now a part of the recently renamed Crossrail Central, formed by Bechtel, Halcrow & Systra after the joint venture won the £400M project delivery partner contract in April (see box).

“We’re approaching it with the attitude that the more energy we can rev up at this point the better the project we’re going to deliver.”

Ailie MacAdam

In the past few months the team has become ensconced with the client, Transport for London subsidiary Crossrail. The result is an expanding Canary Wharf headquarters, with the project team graduating from operating as a development organisation to a delivery organisation.

“There has been a real recognition by those involved with Crossrail that we’re actually here to build it,” says Tucker.

But momentum needs to keep building to make the mega-project a reality. MacAdam says everyone involved is eager to make the move into the delivery phase, but she is amazed when outsiders underestimate the task at hand.

“One thing that surprises me when people hear I’m working on Crossrail is that they say ‘Oh, you must be resting up before the construction stage’,” she explains. “But we’re approaching it with the attitude that the more energy we can rev up at this point the better the project we’re going to deliver.”

MacAdam and Tucker should know how to handle the early stages of such a big project. MacAdam was Bechtel’s project director for the final months of High Speed 1 (HS1), while Tucker was implementation director for the Bechtel/Network Rail integrated team that managed the West Coast Route Modernisation programme.

Grandeur and scale

Their respective experiences may have shaped how they approach what lies ahead, as both share a respect for the grandeur and scale of the project, but each has their own methods for dealing with it.

“It is one of a kind,” says Tucker. “That said, a project’s a project. It will be manageable as long as you break it down into controllable bits so that every member of the team know which bit he or she is responsible for.”

“It’s huge − it really is,” MacAdam agrees. “The challenge is as large as you want it to be. At this stage you could just sit there and design, but the more you can do now, the more you will get out later. It’s worth every single bit of preparation we can get done now.”

The Crossrail Central team

Crossrail Central

As project delivery partner Crossrail Central will be responsible for managing the delivery of the central London tunnel from west London, through Paddington, and branching to the north and south of Whitechapel.

This will involve the construction of a new 21km long twin bore tunnel under the centre of London, six new stations, and the complex job of integrating Crossrail with London’s existing transport systems. Crossrail’s central tunnel section alone will be the largest construction project in Europe.

Bechtel is one of the world’s leading engineering, construction, and project management companies. Combining world resources with local knowledge and experience, Bechtel has a renowned reputation for successfully delivering complex, large-scale projects on time and on budget. Bechtel has been present in the UK for over 50 years, with its civil infrastructure business based in London.

Halcrow is a renowned rail and metro designer, with systems delivered in over 30 cities worldwide. The company’s experience in all types of tunnelling and underground works, is second to none. With over 75 years’ experience in tunnelling, Halcrow has contributed to countless London projects, making it the city’s most experienced tunnelling consultancy.

Systra is a railway engineering consultant with its roots in the Paris metro and French rail network, and a long-established UK branch. With offices and branches throughout the world, Systra is currently working for metro clients as far afi eld as Dubai, Hanoi, Cairo, and Copenhagen, aiming always to offer the benefits of world-class engineering standards to all of its clients.

That said, work is already underway: major construction kicked off in May on the fi rst Crossrail station, Canary Wharf; design contracts have been let for tunnelling, stations, portals and shaft work; and the Crossrail Central team is hooking up with firms like EDF and Thames Water for utilities diversions.

All of which helps with perceptions of how far along things are. “There’s still momentum yet to build,” says Tucker. “But as people start to see things happen, momentum will build itself. And when you get into the details it helps to give that drive.” Another shift in gear is imminent, as attention turns to the task of boring 42km of tunnels beneath the hustle and bustle of central London.

The team held an industry day in June, which had the twofold effect of readying the UK’s tunnelling specialists for the task ahead and getting feedback on plans. Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) notices for the tunnelling contracts have recently been issued. The timing of the OJEU notices is vital. The tunnelling procurement process needs to kick off early because of long lead times needed to build tunnel boring machines (TBMs).

“This isn’t going to be a testing ground for new approaches; we need to use technology that’s proven.”

Bill Tucker

Two types of machines have been specified: earth pressure balance TBMs have been deemed most suitable for the bulk of the drives through London Clay, while slurry TBMs will drive through the sands, chalk and river deposits beneath the River Thames.

The tunnels will mainly be constructed using tried and tested methods. “The 6.2m diameter tunnels are well within the known capabilities of the TBMs,” says Tucker, highlighting that the TBMs will be similar to those used on HS1, just with a smaller diameter. “This isn’t going to be a testing ground for new approaches; we need to use technology that’s proven.” But MacAdam says there will be a “little bit of innovation thrown in”.

“The Crossrail stations won’t be the same as St Pancras, but we’ve still got the opportunity to drive value and make these stations special, while obviously staying within the budget.” There is still a way to go before getting to that stage on the stations.

Much has been made of the work steaming ahead at Tottenham Court Road, and the need to take down the landmark Astoria theatre, but Crossrail is in the process of acquiring properties around the locations of all the other stations too. Part of this work involves the community relations team getting out and working with those affected. “We want to mitigate the impact on them, so we need to make sure they’re moved in a logical way,” says MacAdam.

Steaming ahead

Then there is demolition, of which a “fair amount” is required for each station, according to MacAdam. The plan is to put demolition contracts out to tender this year and early into next.

As the project progresses, more and more of the delivery team will move out of the Canary Wharf HQ and onto site, something that is creating a great sense of anticipation for MacAdam and Tucker. And, as systems are put in place and the project teams are populated, both are hoping that, as has already happened with the client and is beginning to with consultants, the whole organisation will continue to operate as a homogenous unit.

Experience on HS1 tells MacAdam that managing big contractors and different work sites will be a challenge: “It’s about making sure that everyone learns that, if you don’t keep all the different objectives aligned, things can become really tough.”

Bringing experience to the job

Ailie MacAdam

Ailie MacAdam

Ailie MacAdam

Ailie MacAdam is a chemical engineer who has worked for Bechtel for over 20 years.

She started with the business in cost engineering, environmental engineering and contracts administration, before moving into more senior engineering and construction roles and eventually management of some of the world’s largest infrastructure projects.

MacAdam’s recent experience includes supervision of construction and engineering on a £90M viaduct/highway project in the USA, and more recently, St Pancras station area manager for High Speed 1 and subsequently project director for the entire project.

Bill Tucker

Bill Tucker

Bill Tucker

Bill Tucker has over 28 years experience in the engineering and construction industry.

He has held positions in site engineering, construction management, project management and business development in the power and civil/transportation sectors.

He joined Bechtel in London in 2000 as manager of construction for power projects in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, where he was responsible for construction of nine projects, including three in the United Kingdom. In 2002 he was appointed manager of construction for Bechtel’s civil business unit, overseeing construction of the company’s rail, aviation and infrastructure projects outside the United States, including tunnelling and civil works for Section 2 of HS1.


Combined construction industry experience

In 2003, Tucker joined the integrated project team of Network Rail and Bechtel managing the West Coast Route Modernisation programme where he served in a variety of roles including implementation director. He joined the Crossrail project in April as Crossrail Central’s delivery director for tunnels, portals and shafts.

There is one motivation for maintaining a close team that MacAdam is particularly passionate about: health and safety. “The industry’s record is currently not good enough,” she says.

“There’s a responsibility to do better − and that’s all of us included,” she says. “The way to do it is by engaging all the way through the supply chain. It won’t happen without every individual taking personal responsibility to drive health and safety improvements.”

MacAdam is keen to bring all parties together early to brainstorm issues like what can be prefabricated off site, which will not only help “de-risk” but also aid logistics planning.

So what do Tucker and MacAdam want the industry to provide? Top of the list are contractors and suppliers with the best safety programmes.

“The industry’s health and safety record is currently not good enough. There’s a responsibility to do better − and that’s all of us included.”

Ailie MacAdam

Next is the ability to control, manage and report costs; a shared desire to create a successful end product; and good business sense − aligned with a structured approach to quality. Tucker says the right approach to all these issues will have the added benefit of driving cost savings, and that ultimately safety, quality, and cost will be how the success or failings of this £15.9bn mega rail scheme are measured.

But MacAdam says its success will be judged more broadly. “If someone had asked me before [HS1] how much of a wider impact it would have, I would have underestimated it,” says MacAdam. “The same goes for Crossrail and grasping the impact it will have on local regeneration. We probably still don’t realise how big an impact it will have.”

Tucker is aware of the impact the completed project will have on passengers. “Crossrail is going to transform transport in the city: more commuters will be able to get directly to or close to their destination without changing trains. For example, it is amazing that people in Canary Wharf or Whitechapel will be able to take one train directly to Heathrow,” he says.

“Currently there are bottlenecks in the transport system, but not having to transfer will completely change the use of the Tube and lessen some of the burden on it.”

But the impact does not stop there − the delivery directors themselves will also feel its effects, although neither seems sure to what extent. “Will Crossrail be my biggest challenge?” asks Tucker. “I can’t say yet but it probably will be.”

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