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NCE Live News Updates Friday 20 December: Extra checks at 52 London theatres following collapse

More than 70 treated after incident at the Apollo Theatre in Soho

4:30pm: A series of cycle routes have been proposed to form a ‘Central London Grid’.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the grid would be “a new network of routes for a new kind of cyclist”.

The plans have been published for consultation by the seven central London boroughs, the City of London, the Royal Parks, the Canal & River Trust and Transport for London.

They include ‘cycle streets’ closed to other traffic; new routes by parks; and sixty miles of backstreet ‘quietways’, many of which will run parallel to Tube lines or bus routes. Superhighway and other main-road routes will also form part of the grid.

Johnson said: “We are creating a new network of routes for a new kind of cyclist: routes for people who want to cycle slowly, in their ordinary clothes, away from most of the traffic.

“These are your secret cycling passages through London, taking you everywhere you need to go, directly and easily, using routes you might never know existed until we showed you.”


4pm: Amey has won £120M of work from Western Power Distribution.

The contractor will refurbish and renew 92,000km of overhead power lines across the firm’s network over the next five years.

Enterprise – which was acquired by Amey earlier this year – has provided services to WPD since 2003. 

Amey chief executive Mel Ewell said: “We are delighted to have been selected by WPD to deliver overhead line renewal across the South West, South Wales and the Midlands.

“This latest partnership with WPD builds on a successful period for Amey across the utilities sector. We are pleased that the utilities proposition formed off the back of our Enterprise acquisition earlier this year has been received so positively by our customers.”


3.30pm: It’s nearly the end of the working year – but there’s still time for some gloomy predictions for the start of the next one.

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, has warned that demand may grow too quickly for the downturn-decimated industry.

“We predict the first half of the year will be tough, not because demand will be slow but because it will pick up too quickly for an industry which has lost 20% of its capacity over the last five years,” he said.

“It will be the second half of the year at the earliest before supply catches up with demand. Until then the power will remain with the supply chain. Tier one contractors will continue to feel the squeeze, particularly those who chased volume during the recession and were left with wafer-thin margins.”

If you can wait until next Christmas, however, things will be looking better.

“By the end of next year we will have a much more buoyant and competitive market across infrastructure and construction, with a clearer sense of pipeline, especially in energy, and more opportunities across all sectors,” said Threlfall.


2.30pm: More than 50 theatres in Westminster are carrying out extra checks today following the ceiling collapse in the West End last night.

More than 70 people were injured last night in the incident at the Apollo Theatre.

Westminster City councillor Nickie Aiken said an investigation was ongoing into that collapse, and that all 52 theatres with listed status in the borough were carrying out extra inspections.

“We can say that the Apollo’s health and safety checks are up to date,” she said.

“Each historic theatre is unique and we have no reason to believe this is other than an isolated incident. 

“We have confirmed today with the Society of London Theatre that all theatres’ safety checks are up to date. However, as a precaution, all historic theatres are carrying out further safety checks today.”


11.30am: The risk of theatre and cinema ceiling collapses had been highlighted in recent years, a senior figure has warned.

Structural Safety director Alastair Soane said the industry body had published alerts on the matter. A report on its website – published well before the incident at the Apollo Theatre in London last night – warned of “a concerning trend of progressive collapse mechanisms in public buildings where there is a high probability of casualties in the event of failure”.

Soane told NCE today: “It’s a risk that’s been on our agenda for some time. The issue of ceiling collapses has been a concern to us for five years or longer.

“There are very heavy ceilings in many modern cinemas, for acoustic reasons, and in many old theatres for decorative reasons. These are safety critical and if they come down they have the potential to injure or kill large numbers of people.”

Soane added that the Apollo incident, which injured 76 people, seven seriously, could have been worse.

“A large amount of plaster fell several metres and you would not want to be underneath it,” he said.


11am: The Theatres Trust has declared itself “very concerned” about the ceiling collapse at the Apollo Theatre.

More than 70 people were injured last night in the incident at the venue in London’s West End.

Mhora Samuel, director of the Theatres Trust, which works to secure a sustainable future for theatres, said it was important to establish the cause of the accident.

“Thankfully occurrences of theatre ceiling and plasterwork collapse are extremely rare,” he said.

“The public should be reassured that theatre owners carry out regular plasterwork inspections and maintenance regimes to ensure the safety of their buildings. Inspections are carried out and certified by independent experts.”


10am: The fire brigade has offered structural advice to the Apollo Theatre after part of its ceiling collapsed last night, injuring 76 people.

London Fire Brigade’s specialist Urban Search and Rescue team offered structural guidance to the West End venue.

Eight fire engines and specialist rescue vehicles attended the incident, with over 50 firefighters worked at the scene along with police and ambulance staff.

The brigade’s Kingsland Station manager Nick Harding said about 720 people were in the theatre at the time of the incident.

“A section of the theatre’s ceiling collapsed onto the audience who were watching the show,” he said. “The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it.”

London Ambulance Service treated 76 patients, 58 of whom were taken to hospital to be treated.

Fifty one of these were walking, while seven had “more serious injuries” according to the fire brigade. 

Harding added: “In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this.”

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