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NCE Live News Updates Thursday 20 February: Panama Canal contractor strikes deal to restart works; Somerset Levels dredging plan revealed

And finally to silence some of the dredging enthusiasts, this afternoon the Environment Agency has revealed it will instigate dredging in the troubled Somerset Levels. This morning brought us the news that the Panama Canal expansion work is to resume following a billion dollar stand-off between the contractor and client.

3.50pm: Renewable energy firm Atlantis Resources has won a €7.7M (£6.4M) European grant to build a tidal turbine array off the north coast of Scotland.

Scheduled to run from 2014, the programme will involve the design, installation and operation of the company’s 1.5MW AR1500 tidal energy turbines in the Inner Sound of the Pentland Firth at the firm’s MeyGen tidal energy site. The work will be supported by DHI, Royal HaskoningDHV and the University of Edinburgh.

The announcement follows Atlantis’ admission to the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange earlier today and its successful initial public offering and associated £12M placing.

“The award of this grant is a major endorsement of Atlantis, our industry-leading technology, suite of projects and the quality of our management and deployment teams,” said Atlantis chief executive Tim Cornelius. “It will help to catalyse the industry’s development, providing a credible and robust transition pathway from single turbine demonstration units, to the deployment of multi-hundred turbine arrays in Europe and across the wider international market.”


2.30pm: The Environment Agency has revealed that dredging of the Somerset Levels will begin next month.

The work will be carried out “as soon as it is safe and practical to do so”, it said.

Dredging will take place over 8km of river channel where the Tone and Parrett meet at Burrowbridge. Work will begin with a 200m long stretch of the river Parrett north of Coates Farm.

“This is a key stretch of the river that has been specifically identified by local people for dredging and where significant amounts of silt have built up,” said the Agency. “Clearing this length provides the greatest flood reduction benefits through dredging for local villages, farmers and transport routes.

“We plan to start dredging by the end of March, as long as the contractors deem it is safe to do so,” said Environment Agency chief executive Paul Leinster. “We are committed to dredging as part of a broader package of work to protect people, property and land in Somerset.”

However, the Agency stressed that dredging would not be the sole answer to flood management in the area.

“Land and water management on the Somerset moors and levels is generally acknowledged to be a complex issue and effective flood management requires more than a single measure such as dredging,” it said.

Flood warnings persist

Two severe flood warnings remain in place on the Somerset Levels, while the country’s largest-ever pumping operation continues to reduce flood water on the Levels and Moors.

Across the rest of southern and central England river levels continue to fall, including along the Thames and the Severn, although properties could remain flooded from some time including in Windsor and Maidenhead, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Wokingham and West Berkshire.

Groundwater continues to rise in some areas, with ongoing flooding in parts of Greater London, Kent, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset.

Flood warnings are still in place across southern and central England. As of 1pm there were two severe flood warnings, 76 flood warnings and 123 flood alerts in place across England.


12.15pm: Network Rail has awarded framework agreements to cover its programme of asset management for the next five years.

All the agreements are zero-sum with a workbank of £300M over the course of the next funding period, control period 5.

“Monitoring the condition of our infrastructure – including bridges, tunnels, embankments and culverts – is a vital part of keeping Britain’s railways safe,” said Network Rail director of contracts and procurement Ian Sexton.

“By working with these trusted suppliers over the next five years we can continue to improve and build on the knowledge we have of our network.”

The agreements

A single-supplier zero-value framework has been agreed with Amey to cover civil examinations across the entire network, with the exception of the London North Western route, which is delivering its examinations programme using in-house teams. Five zero-value civil assessments frameworks have been agreed, to cover each of Network Rail’s routes.

Anglia Aecom and Amey
Kent Amey
London North Eastern and East Midlands Aecom and Amey
London North Western Aecom, SKM and Opus
Scotland Aecom
Sussex, Wales, Wessex and Western WSP

10am: The Panama Canal authority and its contractor have struck a deal to restart works that were halted earlier this month amid a billion dollar dispute on the mega-project.

The Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) consortium – comprising Spain’s Sacyr Vallehermoso, Italy’s Salini Impregilo, the Netherlands’ Jan De Nul and Constructora Urbana of Panama – said it was now ready to recommence works on the project to build a third set of locks after signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Panama Canal Authority.

A statement from the consortium said: “The parties are engaged in intense discussions and made progress Wednesday on key issues that would allow funding, resumption of works and payments of subcontractors and workers for the Third Set of Locks Project.

“Since the expiry of a Negotiation Protocol interrupted the talks and the works early this month, the parties have exchanged various proposals.”

GUPC said it was continuing negotiations for a comprehensive agreement that follows the applicable contract and laws, and provides funding aimed at completion of the project.


9.55am: Balfour Beatty has completed infrastructure works which serve as the base for 34 wind turbines for SSE Renewables on what is understood to be the largest onshore wind farm project in England.

The £30M contract in Keadby, North Lincolnshire, will bring power to approximately 57,000 homes and includes the construction of a £5M access bridge and the installation of 23km of access tracks.


9.45am: Hope Construction Materials has joined forces with Miller Construction to supply 20,000m3 of concrete to a major redevelopment of the Stephenson Quarter in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne.

The three-year, £200M project is set to be completed in 2015. The development will feature a hotel, residential and commercial properties, retail space and other mixed use developments.

The umbrella deal – which Hope believes to be the first of its kind in the construction industry – will see the firm’s ready-mixed concrete specified in tenders for all Miller Construction’s subcontractors. This approach, it added, will reduce traffic on site, decrease complexity and increase efficiency.


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