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Rolling back the years (2 of 2)

To round off this special issue, we recall some of the key moments in British geotechnics since Ground Engineering was first published at the beginning of 1968. They cover landmark projects and events, as well as trivia, opinions and predictions - some of

Department of Transport stipulates that NAMAS accreditation will be required for all soils testing on its ground investigation contracts.

Ground Forum formed with the aim of offering a co-ordinated industry voice and improving awareness of the importance of geotechnics in construction. Bachy's David Sherwood is founding chairman, and the group secures representation on the Construction Industry Council.

Docklands Light Rail extension project to Lewisham in south east London gets the go ahead.

EC7 faces major delays after identifying problems with compatibility to structural engineering code EC1.

Compensation grouting used commercially for the first time in Britain to enable construction of a new escalator shaft to the Northern Line as part of the building of the International Terminal at Waterloo.

ICE publishes its Site investigation in construction series, launched with the slogan 'you pay for a site investigation whether you have one or not'.

A pre-Christmas start date for the 1,900M Jubilee Line Extension in London is viewed as a lifeline for the recession- hit construction industry.

Landslide in Kuala Lumpur causes collapse of luxury apartment block, killing more than 50.


Keller Ground Engineering buys Chicago based contractor Case International Company for 6M.

Los Angeles earthquake causes 50 deaths and damage estimated at US$30bn.

Balfour Beatty wins 60M contract to build tunnels on Heathrow Express. Three 210m long caverns will be excavated by NATM for the scheme's central terminal station with just 20m of cover below Terminal 3's carparks.

The Channel Tunnel opens late, heavily over budget and with a financially crippled client. Nevertheless it is proclaimed as one of the great engineering projects of the century.

A fire in one of the Storebaelt tunnels causes a major delay in construction. The event reveals there is little understanding of the structural effects of fires in tunnels.

A bus falls into a hole opened up by collapse of a NATM tunnel under construction in Munich, killing two.

Heathrow Express tunnel collapse causes havoc at one of the world's busiest airports, bringing an immediate halt to work on the station tunnels and Jubilee Line tunnels being constructed by NATM-derived methods. All UK NATM work suspended.

Boart Longyear Company formed by merger of geotechnical and geoenvironmental equipment manufacturer Longyear with mining industry supplier Boart.

Foundations incorporating 'energy piles' with heat exchangers installed for Commerzbank headquarters at Frankfurt.


Kobe earthquake kills 4,000. A shallow 7.2 Richter scale event, thought to have unusually high vertical acclerations in the built up area.

NATM-derived work restarts on the JLE. London Underground goes to great lengths to avoid using the term NATM, instead opting for sprayed concrete lining.

James Howden acquires Edeco from the receivers, aiming to combine it with Hands England to form Howden Drilling Equipment.

River Rhine floods, displacing 300,000 people in the Netherlands. The Dutch government releases huge sums of money to accelerate its dyke strengthening programme.

Piling starts on second crossing of Tagus river in Portugal.

Association of Geotechnical Specialists changes its name to Association of Geotechnical & Geoenvironmental Specialists to broaden its membership base.

Innovating ICE president and geotechnical specialist Dr Edmund Hambly dies of a heart attack at 52.

Ground problems on Sweden's Hallandsas railway tunnel forces a change from TBM to drill and blast.

Troll offshore gas production platform towed out to site. World's tallest concrete platform at 472m high, weighing 678,500t and the largest structure ever moved across the face of the earth.

John Mowlem establishes Environmental Services Group encompassing Soil Mechanics, CL Associates and recently acquired TES Bretby.

ICE sells Ground Engineering's publisher Thomas Telford to Emap. GE stablemates now include Construction News, Architects' Journal and New Civil Engineer (plus consumer titles such as FHM, Q and Elle and radio station Kiss).

London's largest diameter and longest concrete bored piles are sunk at Westminster Station on the JLE. Foundations include just nine main loading piles, each 3m diameter and up to 52.5m long.

Collapse of section of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles during realignment operations on a section of the new LA Metro that had been driven offline.

Fugro Environmental buys Wimpey Environmental International's waste and contaminated land assessment division.

Work is suspended in Pisa when the tower lurches 2mm in one day during ground freezing operations.

Outline agreement reached between London underground and English Heritage over controversial plans to shotcrete parts of Brunel's 150 year old Thames Tunnel, the world's first tunnel constructed with a shield, now incorporated into the East London Line.


London & Continental Railways wins the 3bn contract to build, own and operate the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between Folkestone and London.

Transport Research Laboratory sold to private firm Transport Research Foundation - a management buyout team led by former TRL chief John Wooton.

Health & Safety Executive publishes its Safety of New Austrian Tunnelling Method tunnels report, which says that the system (ie sprayed concrete support) is safe to use, if designed correctly.

Cardiff-based Soil Nailing acquired by French-owned Groupe TAI, the holding company of Reinforced Earth and associated companies.

Plans to merge BGS and ICE Ground Board are halted 'at the 11th hour' after four years of discussions. Problems centre on questions of funding for the proposed amalgamated body.

Management buyout at Wimpey Environmental creates Wimtec Environmental.

Boart Longyear acquires German instrumentation, testing and monitoring equipment developer Interfels.

Fugro acquires Alluvial Mining from Boskalis.

Clean up under way on Millennium Dome site in Greenwich.

Comet consortium starts design and construction of Copenhagen Metro.

BGS ballots its members on whether Ground Engineering should formalise its association with the society. Under the deal, every BGS member will receive GE (at a very competitive rate) as part of their membership package. More than 84% of members are in favour, and the proposal is ratified at a special general meeting in December.

Amec merges with French contractor Spie Batignolles, becoming the seventh largest contractor in Europe.

A fire on a freight train in the Channel Tunnel causes months of disruption and severely dents public confidence. Despite partial failures in the tunnel's safety systems, no-one is killed.

Norwegian oil and shipping company Kvaerner takes over Trafalgar House. Cementation Piling & Foundations changes its name to Kvaerner Cementation Foundations.


British Ground Freezing Society disbands through lack of support and interest outside of its organising committee.

Keller Foundations and Keller Colcrete start trading under the single name Keller Ground Engineering.

Jubilee Line Extension announces it will fail to meet its original opening date, while costs are escalating.

Contractors Bachy and Soletanche merge to create the largest geotechnical group in the world, with an estimated involvment in 20% of major world projects.

Environmental Services Group acquires Scottish contractor Nicholson Site Investigation. A month later ESG parent John Mowlem buys Exploration Associates. The sale brings together EA and Soil Mechanics, two of the largest companies in the UK site investigation


Fugro takes over BEL Geophysicals.

Construction of the Athens metro is at a standstill for the second time following two major road collapses in four days.

Major environmental alert in Sweden after toxic acrylamide grout contaminates groundwater on the Hallandsas tunnel project.


Compressed air blowout on DLR Lewisham extension tunnel under River Thames.

Funding collapses on CTRL, just days after first major tunnelling contracts awarded. Deputy prime minister John Prescott challenges the industry to come up with a viable scheme. The project is divided into two stages and work eventually starts in the autumn. Long term viability of stage two remains unclear.

Dr Robert Mair appointed as Professor of geotechnical engineering at Cambridge university as Professor Andrew Schofield retires.

Heathrow Express opens providing a 15 minute train link between London and Heathrow Airport. Client BAA estimates that only 35M of final 440M cost is due to the 1994 collapse.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott sets a target for 60% of new housing to be on brownfield sites in 10 years.

Opening of Japan's Akashi Kaikyo bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1991m. Its span was lengthened by nearly 1m in the 1995 Kobe earthquake which struck during construction.

ICE launches a new project titled 'Managing geotechnical risk: improving productivity in UK building and construction' in the hope that project cost and time overruns due to ground-related problems will be reduced.

German foundation equipment manufacturer and contractor Bauer buys anchor specialist Klemm from Ingersoll-Rand.

Swedish drilling tool and accessory manufacturer Sandvik takes over its main client, Finnish rig manufacturer Tamrock.

The 8km Storebaelt bridge and tunnel crossing opens in Denmark, completing the missing link in road and rail connections between Copenhagen and mainland Europe.

Workload survey by ACE reports that overseas orders in South East Asia in 1997 are down by 30% as the region's economy collapses.

Keller Group acquires Franki Pacific Holdings' head office in Sydney, Australia.

Hong Kong police investigate allegations of corruption with underlength piles being installed on a number of sites.

Hong Kong's geotechnical community establishes an association of geotechnical specialists AGS(HK) along the lines of the UK body.

The 13th element (named 12a for superstitious reasons) on the immersed tube tunnel for the Oresund crossing sinks after a temporary bulkhead fails. Work begins to refloat and move it back into position.

Ground Engineering's latest survey of site investigation contractors finds the industry complaining that clients are unwilling to pay for quality site investigation - an issue raised in GE's first issue in 1968.

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