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Selsey Tornado to Hurricane Mitch

NCE looks back at a year which brought a step change in Government interest in transport, but still saw the schedule of major projects continuing to slide.

1998

January

The month when...

The first Channel Tunnel Rail Link contracts are let. Work is due to start in April, but storm clouds are gathering.

Achievement of the month

Heathrow Express opens, albeit partially, cutting journey times from Heathrow to Paddington to 20 minutes.

Disaster of the month

The Tornado which leaves the south coast town of Selsey looking 'almost like a war zone'.

Hero of the month

Balfour Beatty/Amec project manager Colin MacKenzie who rescues modern art prints worth tens of thousands of pounds delivered mistakenly to his Jubilee Line Extension site instead of the nearby Hayward Gallery.

Villain of the month

The National Physical Laboratory which demolishes the tanks used to test the Dambusters' bouncing bombs.

February

The month when...

A tunnel being constructed under the Thames for an extension to the Docklands Light Railway has its roof blown off as a compressed air test goes wrong.

Achievement of the month

The Angel of the North is erected outside Gateshead.

Disaster of the month

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott rejects pleas for a further 1.2bn injection of public money into the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Promoter London & Continental Railways gives notice that it cannot proceed with the 5.4bn project.

Hero of the month

Angel of the North sculptor Antony Gormley for employing engineering in such a powerful artistic statement.

Villain of the month

John Prescott/LCR (depending on your point of view)

March

The month when...

The Government announces its plans to use private finance to tackle London Underground's 7bn infrastructure backlog.

Achievement of the month

The Government publishes its White Paper A mayor and assembly for London. Transport is seen as the number one priority and congestion charges and a parking levy are included in the proposals.

Disaster of the month

The growing possibility that the CTRL will be built in two phases rather than one.

Villain of the month

Swedish firm FEAB/FKAB which still refuses to pay the 1M fine incurred for its part in the 1994 Ramsgate walkway disaster.

April

The month when...

The Government reveales that motorways and urban roads are in worse state now that at any time in the last 20 years.

Achievement of the month

The world's longest span suspension bridge, Japan's 3,911m Akashi Kaikyo bridge, is opened.

Disaster of the month

Five people die as heavy rainfall causes massive flooding throughout the Midlands. Damage is estimated to have cost between 500M and 1bn.

Hero of the month

ICE Director General Roger Dobson agrees to postpone his retirement as the hunt for his successor runs into its seventh month.

Villain of the month

Gordon Brown, whose rows with John Prescott delay the Government's Integrated Transport plans.

May

The month when...

The long-awaited Construction Act comes into force.

Achievement of the month

The British civil engineering profession gets its first dedicated trade show, the NCE-sponsored Civils 98 at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre.

Disaster of the month

The full impact of the Asian currency crisis becomes clear when the Association of Consulting Engineers reveals that overseas orders have fallen by nearly a third.

Hero of the month

The British Road Federation which finally sees the writing on the wall and switches its focus from demanding new roads to lobbying for better management of the existing network.

Villain of the month

Construction trade associations, which are outdated, divisive and lacking in leadership, according to Construction Industry Board deputy chairman Tony Merricks.

June

The month when...

Nearly 5km of gas pipeline drops from Bangladesh's recently completed Jamuna bridge.

Achievement of the month

Railtrack rides to the rescue of the CTRL, agreeing to underwrite the construction of the project's first phase, taking it as far as Fawkham Junction in north Kent.

Disaster of the month

Design of an overbridge is blamed for escalating the scale of the fatal high-speed rail crash at Eschede in Germany in which 98 people are killed.

Hero of the month

Culture Secretary Chris Smith who endorses a Grade I listing for the Severn Bridge, an accolade given to just 2% of all listed structures.

Villain of the month

David Beckham, of course

July

The month when...

Insufficient temporary prestressing leads to the catastrophic collapse of the 300m Injaka bridge in South Africa's Mpumalanga province.

Achievement of the month

Chep Lap Kok, Hong Kong's 4bn new airport, opens.

Disaster of the month

The opening of Chep Lap Kok, a logistical nightmare which ends up costing Hong Kong 102M.

Hero of the month

John Prescott and Sir John Egan. The deputy prime minister delivers an Integrated Transport White Paper which lives up to most realistic expectations. The BAA chief executive's Rethinking Construction report gives construction a blueprint for its future.

Villain of the month

The planners of Nottingham, judged the worst planned town or city in the UK by researchers from the University of Westminster. Dumfries was judged the best planned UK conurbation.

August

The month when...

The Government's roads review is discovered not to be the massacre expected. But only 37 of the 125 proposed schemes are given immediate go ahead.

Achievement of the month

The last of the 2,904 bolts replaced as part of the Humber Bridge's three year refurbishment programme is fixed in place.

Disaster of the month

A 57,000t concrete element being used to construct the 0resund crossing between Sweden and Denmark accidentally sinks, coming to rest 4m out of position and delaying the scheme by four to six weeks.

Hero of the month

The three-strong inquiry panel which recommends that the 870m Alderney breakwater, designed by the ICE's second president James Walker, be saved from demolition.

Villain of the month

Clients. Too many of whom enjoy on site conflict, according to Balfour Beatty chief executive Mike Welton.

September

The month when...

BAA's Simon Murray joins Railtrack as director of major projects.

Achievement of the month

The ICE finally appoints a new DG. GTRM managing director Mike Casebourne.

Disaster of the month

The Jublilee Line Extension opening goes back another six months, to September 1999, as Bechtel takes over as project manager.

Hero of the month

Glaxo, which is marketing the skills of its partnering contractors and consultants to other clients.

Villain of the month

The European Commission, which is sitting on millions of unpaid consultants fees according to the British Consultant Bureau.

October

The month when...

Construction Forecasting & Research raises eyebrows by actually increasing its predictions for industry growth.

Achievement of the month

A huge sigh of relief marks the long awaited start of work on the CTRL.

Disaster of the month

BAA puts engineering design for the 1.8bn Terminal 5 on hold amid doubts that the project will ever get under way.

Hero of the month

The American Society of Civil Engineers, whose 'report card' finally succeeds in involving the profession in a national debate over the country's infrastructure at the highest level.

Villains of the month

The Laing executives responsible for the contractor's involvement in the new Welsh Rugby Union stadium in Cardiff. Design changes have ended up costing Laing 20M plus.

November

The month when...

WS Atkins and Bovis announce merger plans.

Achievement of the month

The Construction Industry Council celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Disaster of the month

Hurricane Mitch lays waste to the infrastructure of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Heros of the month

The three RedR engineers who set off for the disaster-struck Central America (closely followed by NCE reporter Matthew Jones).

Villain of the month

Sir John Egan, accused by green guru Jonathan Porritt of ignoring sustainability in his report.

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