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Letters: A permanent solution to temporary work problems

Victoria Bridge

Victoria Bridge: Highlights issue of temporary works

I fully endorse Richard Thiemann’s comment (NCE 22 October ) that “for all projects, early consideration of temporary works requirements and strategy can reduce costs and programme while improving health and safety”. My company designs a lot of mechanically stabilised temporary working platforms, particularly piling mats. It is frustrating to be not infrequently presented with inadequate soils information regarding the upper 2m or so of ground.

A significant number of site investigations which, having correctly dismissed the upper superficial deposits/made ground as too soft or loose to support the permanent works, concentrate exclusively on the soil properties for the permanent design (usually piling) and the relevant properties of the deeper strata are thoroughly tested and reported. However, there may be little or no site testing information to quantify the bearing capacity of the subgrade which must inevitably support the temporary piling platform.

The omission can be compounded as the temporary works designer is often presented with these geotechnical reports only when the site specific piling rig loadings are known, with little notice ahead of the programmed installation. Therefore, at best, very conservative assumptions then have to be made in the absence of design parameters or the works delayed pending additional soils testing.

It would be of considerable benefit if engineers commissioning and carrying out the initial site investigation ensured that when piling is recommended, sufficient testing is carried out to provide representative design parameters so that the temporary working platform can be safely and economically constructed.

  • John Dixon (M),

Am I alone in seeing the irony in the juxtaposition of Richard Thiemann’s viewpoint extolling the early consideration of temporary works requirements with the report of the temporary works solutions adopted for the reconstruction of Victoria Bridge (NCE 22 October)?

I am disappointed and frustrated that, some 40 years after publication of the Bragg Report and, with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations now in its third edition, there remain areas within the construction industry where temporary works are treated as a necessary evil, to be dealt-with only as a matter of last resort. Many larger construction companies do work in accordance with well-developed temporary works procedures but, too often, relatively minor matters are only considered too late to allow for proper development of solutions.

It is, surely, in the interests of all parties that temporary works requirements are considered at an early stage. This means that, as described in the CDM Regulations, permanent works designers should consider how the work is likely to be done and tenderers should give proper consideration to the proposed construction methods. When the work is given such attention, all parties benefit from having the most appropriate and cost-efficient temporary works.

The temporary works designer for the deck reconstruction on the Victoria Bridge only became involved, apparently, after the main truss beams had been installed. Who can say what savings could have been made if proper temporary works co-ordination had been applied, in line with long-standing guidance and recommendations? And would the project then have topped (rather than make an appearance in) the shortlist for the 2015 BCIA Temporary Works Award?

  • Laurie York (M Retd),

Dilution of talent hits our profession

I noted in the text explaining the Sustainability Award (BCI Awards supplement 2015), that “the innovative concept of utilising parks in an urban area to capture and store surface water run-off from rainfall” was praised. While admirable, the concept is hardly innovative. More than 25 years ago, as engineering manager (ie chief engineer) to West Dorset District Council, it was normal practice for myself and/or my senior staff to vet every planning application and make conditions regarding such run-off, which included, inter alia, the use of these types of measures - generally with the support of planning colleagues. Most developers, too, could see the sense in what we were trying to achieve. On my retirement, my successor carried on the good work.

I note, in the Civil Engineering, Volume 168 issue, (1500011 UK sustainable drainage systems, past, present and future), the author’s reply to a contribution outlines the present-day problems of the lack of experienced engineers to provide adequate technical advice.

So, once again, the lack of municipal engineers is highlighted.

  • David Negus (M Retd)

Stonehenge situation is a disgrace

What Highways England (or its previous incarnation the Highways Agency) has perpetrated at Stonehenge in the last two years is a disgrace. What was a difficult and ongoing problem has been made much worse with all traffic now using the tweaked minimal roundabout at the A360.

With no tunnel solution likely to be in place for 10 years serious consideration should be given to a temporary flyover, à la Hogarth roundabout, to allow through traffic on the A303 to flow through uninterrupted. This should be feasible within 24 months and would provide at least eight years of relief to the present exacerbated and unacceptable problem. At the moment the revised Stonehenge layout is a disaster.

When the tunnel is open the flyover can then be used elsewhere.

  • John Franklin (F), 11 The Ridings, East Horsley KT24 5BN

In search of the outstanding Jennie Coombs

I am confused. In your editorial you make special mention of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s Jennie Coombs who was singled out for praise for winning the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Construction Industry Awards (NCE 22 October). I was interested to find out more about this lady and naturally went to the booklet that was sent out last week with details of all the BCIA awards.

However, I can find no mention of this lady or the award - although there is an Outstanding Contribution Award that was awarded to Rachael Hookway from the same council for the same development (William Street Quarter).

Can you remove my confusion?

  • Tim La Touche
  • Editor’s note: Well spotted Tim. There was a mix-up that led to the wrong name being printed in the BCIA awards supplement. But rest assured that Jennie was the hugely worthy recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award for her unswerving commitment to her community over a number of years.

Why can’t HS2 use broad gauge track?

I have recently finished reading one of the many books on Brunel, and it caused me to ask why with High Speed 2 we are not considering broad gauge track and larger, wider trains?

One of the main arguments often cited for HS2 is increased rail capacity and faster journey times, which with a larger train but stopping less frequently and on a more direct route could still deliver this.

Was this something ever considered or are there engineering reasons this was deemed not a viable? Reasons against this I can see would be increased area and load with the power needed to overcome this. Interconnectivity with other parts of the network - is this really needed in terms of trains crossing tracks? Savings from using tried and tested design and manufacturing equipment? Hopefully, someone will be able to explain why we are building on a gauge selected 200 years ago and why it is still the most appropriate today.

  • Andy Cook


Euston maybe a concourse far too far

We are an ageing population.Seeing the proposed vast concourses for Euston station (NCE 15 October) I wonder if old people will ever reach a platform. As a 96-year-old retired civil engineer, need I worry?

  • JE Hocking (M Retd), New Polzeath, Cornwall

Readers' comments (1)

  • stephen gibson

    I noted David Negus comment in relation to the project which used open spaces for attenuation, as this project caught my eye also, but I have a different take.

    Firstly, it is rare for a civil engineering project to be awarded. I find there are endless awards for bridges, buildings and BIM.

    Sure, its not an innovative idea, but a sensible practical approach which draws on common sense. Putting insulation in buildings, or making bridges out of steel and concrete is not innovative either and yet they constantly win innovation prizes.

    It is the fact that it is exceptionally rare to see any kind of joined up thinking or responsibility between the different stakeholders. The project is innovative in that it provides an example of what can be achieved if the EA / local authorities and sewerage authorities look outside their narrow silos of responsibility.

    As regards "dilution of talent" I think the problem is consistently civil engineering has not been respected compared to structural engineering, never mind architecture.

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