Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Let's get together

Ground Engineering begins its seven-page trenchless technology focus with an overview of the techniques and a heartfelt plea for closer integration between the geotechnical and trenchless industries.

Trenchless technology and geotechnical sectors remain curiously oblivious to each other. Incredibly few in the trenchless sector appear to give much consideration to the ground within which they operate, while the geotechnical industry has - with a few exceptions - failed to address the needs of the trenchless community.

It is a missed opportunity for both groups and ultimately for the client bodies, especially the major utilities and road authorities. The often complex interaction between soil and installation in trenchless techniques - especially directional drilling, microtunnelling and pipebursting - is considerable, but rarely considered. The irony is that if geotechnics was properly integrated into trenchless technology solutions, the techniques would be more reliable and clients would be much more willing to use them.

James Thomson of trenchless technology consultancy Jason Consultants agrees. He says to succeed at trenchless technology, contractors need to understand both the equipment and geotechnics. Over the last 10 years Thomson, who has positioned his consultancy to work on unusual and difficult trenchless projects, has become increasingly convinced that the secret of trenchless work is the early integration of geotechnics into the design.

In particular, trenchless technology practitioners need to be able to relate geotechnical conditions to machine behaviour, he says. Geotechnical engineers have not been much help because the trenchless sector finds it difficult to translate geotechnical language into a practical trenchless context.

Change is on the horizon and some of the trenchless contractors are making efforts to get to grips with the ground. As Louise Howe of Chiltern Thrustbore says: 'It's not just a matter of getting the right tooling and equipment - if you don't pay attention to the ground it can defeat you.'

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.