Transport features and news
Next year is a big year for the team working to improve transit through London Bridge station as part of the Thameslink project is now nearly a third of the way through.
Selling the value of investment in roads should be the new mantra for engineers, with the government backing the industry in ways almost unprecedented in modern times.
As the General Election approaches, policy makers from across the political spectrum must seek to accelerate the process for devolution of transport powers in the next Parliament and “seize the opportunity to unlock the potential of our city regions”, according to the ICE.
The Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity. Despite some positive announcements on devolution, the government’s fetish for ever more roads comes at the expense of both the environment and more effective and better value public transport alternatives.
August saw the launch of the Project Leadership Programme (PLP) by Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude. Aimed at improving the skills and capability of civil servants who work on government projects, it serves an unique purpose in upskilling the civil service in project management skills. Essential? Yes.
Where in the UK has there been a 123% increase in rail passenger numbers over the past 11 years, double the national average, but only a £41 per head investment in rail, compared to £100 per head across the whole of England?.
As ever, there has been plenty of rumour about what is likely to be announced in the Autumn Statement. Damaging road schemes are set to be a key part.
The ambitious Gulf Co-operation Council railway scheme will run for 2,200km across the Middle East and is initially priced at £175bn, but procurement and securing an overall delivery body remain concerns. NCE reports
In the 10 years since the Highways Agency started operating England’s strategic roads network there have been some significant changes. Jon Masters reports.
While we may marvel at the speed and alacrity with which China has expanded its high speed rail network, its progress in road building has been even more impressive. In 2012 and 2013, China opened more than 10,000km of new expressway (motorway) each year and this year already more than a further 8,000km has been opened.
In his Autumn Statement this December, chancellor George Osborne will announce details of the first Road Investment Strategy (RIS). Controversially this will not only cover maintenance spending, but will increase the budget for road construction from £1.5bn in 2014-15 to £3.8bn in 2020-21.
Consultants are gearing up for a major boost in road design and construction that will see them recruiting in large numbers, as Jon Masters reports.
Trials in the Netherlands and US are looking at the possibility of using roads as a source of solar energy, as Dave Parker discovers.
Few would argue that transport is the lifeblood of any city – a vibrant economy depends on the efficient movement of people, goods and data.
Over the past two decades, London has been transformed by a transport revolution. Great new places have been created and existing centres have been reanimated by a massive expansion and reinvigoration of public transport provision across London.
Ministers have proclaimed the first round of the £2bn Local Growth Fund as the centrepiece of a new decentralised approach. But many of the projects receiving money are reheated old schemes which central Government ditched over 20 years ago in the face of widespread public opposition.
A project to remodel tracks to the west of London has been underway for the last three years, in preparation for Crossrail trains to run on the existing rail network, as Jon Masters discovers.
The rail industry has been among the first sectors to adopt the new British Standard for collaborative working. Report by Julie-Anne Ryan.
The rail sector has major challenges ahead, including skills shortages and the need to make efficiency improvements, as Turner & Townsend head of rail Patricia Moore explains to Margo Cole.
Autonomous vehicles have moved from the pages of the technical press to mainstream media in recent months; no longer being seen as fanciful or speculative, they are being seen more and more as inevitable.
Network Rail, in April, embarked on a new five-year plan with challenging targets to deliver a safer, higher performing and more efficient railway by 2019.
The award of a second round of framework contracts for highways schemes in the Midlands confirms that the system is benefiting the region’s local authorities, reports Jon Masters.
The second phase of a massive project to remodel the Catthorpe Interchange - a bottleneck on the motorway and trunk road network - is now underway.
Much has been made in recent weeks about the reasons we should build HS2. Speed? Capacity? Connectivity? No, it’s all three, and more.
If Gatwick Airport builds a second runway, 95M passengers will use the airport each year by 2050, up from 34M today.
No-one ever thought that the work of the Airports Commission would be easy. Tasked with developing options to deliver new runway capacity and secure the future of a UK aviation hub (whether located at Heathrow or elsewhere), it has had to face up to a plethora of conflicting priorities and competing proposals.
Crossrail 2 has recently found itself top of the infrastructure debate in Westminster, with the transport minister raising the case for increasing regional spending outside London.
Plans for rail franchises in the north of England show a big north-south divide in infrastructure ambitions. Government needs to act to close the gap and make sure northern rail services get the investment they need.
With the unveiling of Google’s new car and renewed press interest in what autonomous vehicles might mean for society, much has been made of the unease many people have over unleashing computers into such a safety critical environment, where a computer controlled car might kill humans.
Terminal 2B, Heathrow Airport’s biggest ever airside project, was completed on time this month, with off-site modularisation and building information modelling key to its success. But there is more beneath the surface than meets the eye.
James McColl of the Campaign for Better Transport talks of zombie road projects which keep reappearing after they are scrapped. He makes reference to the Stonehenge section of the A303 to try to rubbish any improvements along the whole route. He maintains that officials ask the same question about projects in different ways until they get the answer ...
Tunnelling work is now nearly complete on Europe’s largest infrastructure project and to celebrate this NCE is poised to publish its fourth Crossrail major project report. Setting the scene, chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme reflects on the achievements so far and looks ahead to the work still to be done.
So the mayor’s next big idea is to build a 22km long orbital tunnel around London. At first glance this seems, well, a bit bonkers however creative and at times counter-intuitive, the solutions we need are for modern transport challenges. In terms of winning the ongoing battle against inner London congestion, a ring tunnel around the capital was probably not the first option on the table, nor will it be the last.
Transport infrastructure represents a central part of Scotland’s economic investment programme, and regardless of whether Scotland gains independence following the referendum later this year, infrastructure investment remains vital.
The rail industry is looking to recruit and attract talent for the current high workload.
A look at the company’s Brantham Hall Remediation and Stonegate Embankment Emergency Works projects.
An academy for BIM learning and development set up by Crossrail and Bentley Systems may soon find a place on most mega-projects.
Innovative bridge construction and rail laying technologies are being deployed in southern France to speed construction of the new Bordeaux-Tours high speed rail line. Mark Hansford reports from Poitiers.
Latest research from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has warned the “catch up cost” of filling the potholes plaguing Britain’s roads would be £12bn, with much of the work done to repair damaged roads undone by winter’s heavy rainfall.
Ask a cross-section of travellers what’s wrong with Britain’s railway system, and you’ll get a variety of answers.Commuter trains too crowded; trains across the Pennines too crowded; connections between regional cities either non-existent, or poor quality compared with services to London.
When asked why the Great Depression had changed his mind about monetary policy, John Maynard Keynes famously said that when the facts changed, he altered his conclusions. In contrast, when governments and politicians are presented with results that do not fit with their current thinking, they doubt the facts and generally set about trying to change them.
Roads are vital to economic wellbeing yet in many developed countries these assets have suffered due to a shortfall in funding.
It has been revealed that the Spanish-led Merseylink consortium is to build the 2.13km-long Mersey Gateway bridge for £250M less than budgeted. Mark Hansford talks to the design team behind the saving.
One of the UK’s largest road embankments is contributing to major cost savings on Scotland’s new Queensferry Crossing. David Hayward reports from the Firth of Forth.
The UK is the sixth biggest economy in the world. Yet this economic strength often appears to be sustained in spite of, rather than because of, one of the country’s most valuable assets.
Shedding light on how local and national government favours road over rail.
Casting a philosophical eye on infrastructure projects.
Appointing a contractor before gaining planning consent may be unusual but ground investigation is currently underway to ensure it is a smooth transaction for London’s Bank Station capacity upgrade.
Highway schemes have already benefited from Balfour Beatty’s sheet piling innovation and now the rail sector is recognising the advantages of king sheet piling too.
Last week was a big week for the UK’s high speed rail ambitions but the way in which High Speed 2 (HS2) got its boost may set the tone for how other politically difficult infrastructure decisions will be made.
NCE’s pages have been full of expert comment about flooding in southern England in recent weeks, but while we prepare for an inevitable re-allocation of infrastructure expenditure let’s not forget the familiar mistake of forgetting the roads agenda.
A monitoring system for the new Queensferry Bridge checks 1,000 sensors to keep track of the structure’s health.
It appears that the construction industry now kills more members of the public off-site than employees on-site, highlighting a growing dichotomy in safety culture over the last decade.
Cantilever formwork travellers have speeded up construction of two dramatic bridges on Europe’s new high speed road network.
Concrete is at the heart of the repairs to the Great Western Railway at Dawlish in Devon after the devastation caused by last month’s floods.
Transport: The government is hell bent on creating more traffic, despite dirty air for those living near busy roads
Plans for hard shoulder running on congested sections of motorway have shone a light on dangerously poor air quality that those living near busy roads routinely face. Rather than planning for a massive increase in cars, the Government needs to clean up its act and protect communities from dirty air.
Opportunities abound for engineers with ambitions to work in the global rail sector. NCE reports.
The first tracks of a street-running extension of the Midland Metro have been laid in the centre of Birmingham - 60 years after the last tram ran onthe city’s streets.
Protecting bridges from scour is one of a wide range of repairs and upgrades that London Underground is carrying out on its structures this year.
Building information modelling has cut costs and improved efficiency on a Swedish rail project.
Laing O’Rourke wants to become a major player in the UK rail sector and believes it can bring new ideas to the industry.
At first sight, Liverpool and its region does not fare too badly from High Speed 2 (HS2). Journey times to London will be reduced by 28 minutes and there will be a doubling of frequency. But we at 20 More Miles are not happy.
Transport: Crossrail 1 is only half finished but it's time to start thinking about London’s next big hole in the ground
It is – and ever has been - a common device in films that depict our future to have flying vehicles, people travelling through tubes, and other such novelties. The one thing you tend to notice is it’s usually highly ordered and efficient. People arrive. They are whisked away with no fuss.
UK money and expertise is being used to develop specifications for rural African roads.
Cycling is now an important part of urban living and needs to be incorporated in highways design. The ICE’s Cycling group has provided some key guidance and, with a roadshow planned, there is no better time to update on progress.
After announcing itself in the highway maintenance market last year, Skanska is looking for new recruits who want a challenge.
The Government is keen to make road-building a core part of its plans to stimulate economic growth. They are, however, finding it difficult to get very much built. There are good reasons for this.
Transport: Half way there, but no half measures – the lessons that can be learned from Crossrail’s success
With Europe’s largest infrastructure project now half complete, the scale of Crossrail’s challenge – and achievement so far – are becoming clear.
Next year could see a “phoney war” over air capacity, as the options available are narrowed ahead of a 2015 decision.
MTR’s project to build a high speed rail link to mainland China has had to overcome some tough challenges to remain on track for completion in 2015.
Busy Ma Tau Wai Road in Kowloon City is presenting one of the first major challenges to the MTR team working on phase one of the 17km, £5bn Shatin to Central Link.
Tunnelling and underground work are now the main focus of civil engineering work on MTR’s 7km long South Island Line (East) project, which will link Hong Kong Island’s busy business district in Admiralty with the Southern District, terminating at South Horizons on Ap Lei Chau.
In a vast excavation site at Ho Man Tin a major new interchange between two of MTR’s newest subway lines is taking shape.
MTR’s £1.3bn West Island Line is in its critical final stages as its project team prepares for completion at the end of this year.
Historically, asset renewal was the poor relation of budgeting, and the first to be cut in times of cost pressures in deference to front line operating service budgets. This was clearly evident in social infrastructure such as health and education, but transport and utility infrastructure were also far from immune, says Brian Johns of Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Rapid curing concrete has been introduced to reduce the time, costs and traffic disruption associated with replacing worn out concrete carriageway on the M25. Jon Masters reports.
Rail travel is set to be transformed over the decade - a transformation that applies just as much to the stations as it does to the network.
In 2014 Crossrail will reach the halfway mark and begin to move from heavy civils towards a focus on tunnel fit-out and railways systems.
For anyone who may have thought that the Green Agenda had fallen by the wayside, a key decision earlier this month served as a stark reminder for why it shouldn’t be ignored.
The long standing debate about devolution and autonomy of power to local government has been highlighted by the Core Cities report. Essentially the eight core cities, like many local authorities across the UK, want more fiscal control of taxation and therefore public spending that takes place in their area.
Why contractors should use rivers more.
For the first time in five years the highways and transport industry feels positive about the present, with increased confidence in the future.
Contractor Carillion is gearing up to handle work under the Highways Agency’s latest framework which covers professional services and projects worth a total of £5bn
While the UK debates in great detail what it might and mightn’t like about High Speed 2 (HS2), there are grander visions being explored for high speed rail travel on the world stage. And they threaten to undermine the UK’s ambition to lead the development of innovative railway technology.
Business lobby group London First is devoted to making the capital the world’s best place to do business. Chief executive Baroness Jo Valentine explains why infrastructure investment is key to this ambition.
The Connaught Tunnel section of the new Crossrail project has provided an inspirational career opportunity for the young team of Taylor Woodrow engineers leading construction. Antony Oliver reports.
Early supply chain engagement, standardisation, breaking from the codes and consistency of workload emerged as the way to get more innovation into the rail industry at NCE’s latest Boosting Infrastructure Efficiency round table debate. Mark Hansford reports.
Crossrail has overcome many complex challenges and is now about to begin its trickiest phase as contractors prepare to go under the River Thames. Mark Hansford reports.
While debate continues over the benefits of connecting major cities via the proposed High Speed 2 link, northern cities are already on their way to seeing a renaissance in railways as the Northern Hub scheme unfurls.
The Highways Agency claims that scrapping motorway hard shoulders in the name of increased capacity has had no major impact on safety despite reservations from politicians and the police. Jon Masters examines the safety case.
It pays to have schemes ready in case the government wants a quick start project. Portsmouth had a motorway junction in hand from the 1970s. Jackie Whitelaw reports on construction progress.
The view from the top of the 45m high twin towers of the cable stayed Kessock Bridge on the A9 north of Inverness can’t fail to inspire, with the Beauly Firth and ever changing views to the Highlands on all sides. The view of the newly resurfaced deck directly below will be equally inspiring to all long span bridge owners and operators, but it is unlikely to change much for about 30 years, which is the hoped for lifespan of the surfacing that was laid in June.
Last month French dignitaries gathered to see work begin on one of the biggest structures for the 302km Bordeaux-Tours South Europe Atlantic high speed rail line. Mark Hansford was there to meet the project team making it happen.
Network Rail’s chief executive Sir David Higgins reveals the thinking behind its next five year, £37.5bn spending plan, which is currently being scrutinised by the Office of Rail Regulation. His key goal is to focus on neglected structures after years of under-investment. Mark Hansford reports.
Construction of a new road is a rare sight across the UK. Environmental concerns, efforts to increase use of public transport as well as cuts in government funding have all significantly reduced the number of new road building projects in recent years.
The A23 widening works between Handcross Hill and Warninglid aim to make the crucial London to Brighton road safer and more efficient by adding an extra lane on both sides of a perilous 3.8km stretch. The challenge that contractor Carillion has faced in bringing this project to life has been how to do this while remaining environmentally sensitive and minimise delays to the traffic and the project.
Canada’s largest road project demonstrates the value building information modelling can offer to highways, a sector that has tended to lag behind others in using the technology.
Great strides are being made across the industry to roll-out the use of building information modelling (BIM) as a means to drive efficiencies and betterdecision making into construction projects.
Rumblings in the press in the past few weeks have ruled in and then ruled out toll funding for a new relief road in South Wales.
Beneath the streets of central London, a massive upgrade programme is underway to relieve congestion at some of the capital’s busiest stations.
The £1bn Victoria Line Upgrade provides passengers with just what they want - greater reliability and increased capacity. But it was no easy task.
London Underground is embarking on a mammoth £4bn upgrade of the oldest part of its network; the sub-surface railway.
Bringing London Underground’s 150 year old network up to speed through a multibillion pound, multiyear investment is nothing short of a “heroic challenge”, according to the man in charge of making it happen.
Major changes are afoot at London Underground with respect to how it can inspire innovation and cost savings from its supply chain.
This week’s cover story features work to reinstate the long-abandoned Borders Railway in Scotland. It highlights the result of decades of campaigning for this vital transport link.
Those who think that too much infrastructure money is spent on rail projects, and that too much of that is spent in London, had better look away now. Because last week London business leaders heard the compelling case for Crossrail 2 - the proposed south west to north east rail route under central London.
Hoardings come down later this year on the final stage in the restructuring of Kings Cross station, creating a new open space for Londoners. Adrian Greeman reports.
Trams are due to start running on the streets of Edinburgh next year, but there is plenty of work to do as the project strives to stay within its revised budget. Declan Lynch reports.
Restoring the long-awaited Borders Rail in southern Scotland promises many challenges for the construction team. Declan Lynch finds out more.
Work being carried out at London Bridge will see the station undergo a dramatic transformation, as Jon Masters reports.
Since the start of the year NCE’s news pages have been filled with accounts of a succession of procurement problems. Mark Hansford learns how box ticking has replaced engineering judgement.
Business is booming in the UK rail sector, but technical skills are no longer enough, as Margo Cole reports.
MTR Corporation has increasingly global ambitions as a train operator having established itself as Hong Kong’s metro and commuter rail operator over the last 40 years. It operates a highly efficient and constantly expanding metro system, with 10 lines now in operation. MTR also built Hong Kong’s high speed Airport Express link, a service it now operates.
One of the most challenging parts of MTR’s major projects programme is taking place at the heart of Hong Kong’s busy financial district, as part of the HK$12.4bn (£1bn) South Island Line (East) project.
Hong Kong’s high speed rail link to China is hurtling towards its 2015 completion date, overcoming unforeseen obstacles and logistical constraints on the way.
A close working relationship between operations teams and construction teams has helped MTR connect its new West Island Line with existing Island Line running tunnels.
Tunnelling and traffic management are the main focuses of work on the Shatin to Central Link.
Extending the live Kwun Tong Line tunnels to for a new section of the line means that MTR project teams will have to work closely with their colleagues in train operations.
Expanding the tube for a growing city
When the Highways Agency prepared to activate England’s first ever stretch of hard shoulder running on the 42 in late 2004, it faced a barrage of complaints from concerned motoring organisations and safety groups.
Construction of the first of two Crossrail tunnels below the Thames got underway last week with the launch of the first of the project’s slurry tunnel boring machines (TBMs). Mark Hansford updates on progress on the £14.5bn project.
Expanding the Tube for a growing city
Extra strength surfacing specified at a Cornish airfield could lead to less use of traditional Marshall Asphalt on military runways. NCE reports.
With High Speed 2 in judicial review, plans for the Thames Tideway Tunnel about to go before the Planning Inspectorate and the very future ownership of Britain’s highway network up for debate, the challenge of uniting short-term public need for economic growth with long-term sustainable infrastructure development has never been greater.
I think it is fair to say that 2012 was an incredible year for London’s road network, says Dana Skelley
Roads were the big winner in chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, with schemes worth £1.5bn winning funding and getting the go-ahead to start construction in the next three years.
For England’s strategic road network 2013 is a year of rapidly increasing capital investment, says Highways Agency boss Graham Dalton
With just over a year remaining of Network Rail’s current budgetary period, the eyes of the industry are starting to focus on what will happen in the next control period, CP5, due to start in 2014.
There is no doubt that 2013 promises to be one of the most significant years yet for the UK’s high speed rail ambitions, says Doug Oakervee
The nation’s air transport industry - and many residents of the southeast of England - will be holding their breath for the next 12 months in anticipation of the Davies Commission’s first report into the UK airport capacity.
Changes are afoot in the way airport owners maintain their critical assets. It means the next 12 months could be a time of opportunity for those able to offer a fully integrated asset management approach.
The design and construction of tunnels and underground infrastructure is now clearly emerging across the globe as the key to sustainable development as nations wrestle with the demand of growing and increasingly urbanised populations.
Birmingham Airport’s new runway extension will allow it to offer direct flights to China and South America, and to achieve that aim the city council is diverting a road. NCE reports
Delivering new infrastructure through urban areas is challenging enough but work on the Brisbane Airport Link meant the new road had to pass under a major rail link - without interrupting services. GE takes a look at the project.
Constructing stations for Copenhagen’s new metro line is leading to some innovative piling solutions, reports Claire Symes
Network Rail has unveiled its new test train that it hopes will revolutionise track inspections and lead to a step change in safety of its workforce. NCE reports
The successful conclusion of a 12-day blockade of the eastern section of London Underground’s Central Line is set to pave the way for future working. NCE reports.
Bridge slide methods and large scale prefabrication have solved tight site constraint challenges on the massive Reading station expansion project, as Adrian Greeman discovers.
Construction of the first 43km of a wildly ambitious 670km long, eight to 10 lane highway connecting Moscow to St Petersburg is well underway. Report from the Russian capital by Mark Hansford.
Gabon’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba has ambitious plans to develop the country’s infrastructure and has drafted in engineering firm Bechtel to help. Katie Coyne reports.
Transport professionals gathered last week to learn lessons from last summer’s London Olympic Games. Antony Oliver spoke to Olympic Delivery Authority director of transport Hugh Sumner.
Dutch engineers are taking advantage of geospatial data to enhance use of Building Information Modelling in creating and communicating a detailed blueprint for the new A4 motorway. NCE reports.
Construction of a third shipping lane through the Panama Canal is underway. It involves contractors and manufacturers across the globe working to exacting concrete and design specifications. CJ Schexnayder reports.
Innovations on Singapore’s Marina Coastal Expressway have enabled faster, safer, more cost-effective construction, while complying with famously tough safety requirements.
Government review must be fearless.
Mining is the new roads sector for UK consultants eyeing up a £200bn global pot of cash.
Gatwick Airport is investing heavily to become the airport of choice for airlines and passengers across the world. Mark Hansford meets the driving forces behind its £1.2bn investment programme.
In the centre of London, Crossrail project teams are engaged in a major programme of compensation grouting.
The efficiency programme at Network Rail is beginning to yield results but the work is also highlighting what is left to be done.
Last month Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev declared the new world-record cable stayed Russky Island bridge a “beautiful, unique” structure as he opened it to traffic. Mark Hansford was in Vladivostok before him to speak to those who have made it happen.
A new Brunel influenced bridge across a secluded valley in Dartmoor National Park is about to help strengthen transport links with France.
Edinburgh’s much maligned tram work appeared to have turned a corner last year. Declan Lynch visits the new team heading the project.
A new facility to help London Underground keep its new fleet of trains on the tracks is close to completion. Paul Thompson reports.
Discovery of an additional crack in a critical section of the Boston Manor viaduct has once again placed the civil engineering and highway maintenance industry under the media spotlight. But while the main focus was initially on how quickly the repairs could be completed, civil engineers and asset owners need to consider the broader issues this has raised – should we be looking for a short-term fix or investing in long-term ...
A surprise spinoff benefit from the surfacing of Avonmouth bridge is less wear and tear on the massive structure below. Ty Byrd reports.
After winning a second term of office last month, London Mayor Boris Johnson has reappointed Isabel Dedring as his deputy for transport. Antony Oliver finds out her vision for the capital’s transport.
There has been fierce competition to win the Highways Agency’s first two Asset Support Contracts. Mark Hansford talks to winner of the latest contract to be awarded about what the experience has been like so far.
Last week’s funding news has wider implications.
With political conviction for High Speed 2 (HS2) faltering behind the scenes at Westminster there is a rise in favour of resurrecting plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport.
Qatar’s rail building plans include an extraordinary 216km long network - 95km of it underground - to be built from scratch between now and 2030, with the first chunk needed even sooner, in time for the country to host the 2022 World Cup. Mark Hansford reports from Doha.
Construction of seabed foundations for a third crossing of the Forth Estuary has just started, close to the iconic road and rail bridges. David Hayward reports.
Tunnels under the Atlantic, High Speed 5 and Apple in charge of the world – all of which are possibilities for the next 40 years as far as civil engineers are concerned.
A £32M roads job wouldn’t normally make many waves, but for Colas and Volker Fitzpatrick their project to move and improve the A45 alongside a £33M lengthening of the runway at Birmingham Airport is highly significant.
London mayor Boris Johnson is back with a bold vision to speed up London and make it the ‘best city in the world’, says Steve Norris
The first ever temporary diversion of the M25 is being removed by contractors building its newest service station.
While the South East airport capacity debate centres on a Heathrow third runway versus Boris Island in the Thames Estuary, Gatwick is coolly making an understated case for the next new runway to head its way.
If there is one market that has survived the global recession and is growing rapidly, it is rail. Politicians and leaders worldwide are realising the importance of rail as a sustainable means of meeting transport demands, making the sector an extremely attractive one for civil engineers.