Ignorance and Risk

This was going to be a point and laugh post about an article on El Reg, the thrust of which was ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ as the author has got his Heathrow Terminals mixed up and has confused two jobs that occurred almost a decade apart, thus making him look like an idiot. OK making him look like an idiot to tunnel engineers but getting away with it for the other 99.9% of the readership. But still the Heathrow collapse had bugger all to do with Terminal 5, primarily because it occurred just outside Terminal 3 in 1994 well over 10 years before Terminal 5 had even started construction. But then he is a Project Manager and so I suppose I shouldn’t expect him to do ‘facts’

I was then pondering a discussion on TfL’s approach to risk based on the interesting quotes in the article from the TfL head of risk management as he was responsible for risk on the Heathrow job. Alas it doesn’t say which Heathrow job, if it was T5 he did a fairly good job on the engineering side (the baggage system which failed was all M&E and they’ve always been useless bastar….) but if he was on the original Heathrow Express in 1994 that makes it very interesting, particularly given what the Heathrow Express collapse did to London Underground’s approach to risk (I really must write the Jubilee Line Extension post one day). Without knowing which I’d be guessing, and if I’m going to do that I might as well guess about something interesting and just make up some exciting stuff.

So as I have to do something, and it should involve risk, I’ll merely note that the biggest punishment on Balfour Beatty wasn’t the fine (£1.3 million, even in the 1990s, wasn’t that much to a big civil engineering contractor) or the damaged reputation with clients it was insurance. Post the collapse (and post the JLE insurance fiasco) Balfour’s couldn’t get insurance for a tunnel job for love nor money for almost a decade. While they did finish out existing contracts they didn’t start a new job in tunnelling till the middle of this decade. You may say that’s a harsh price to pay, but if you were to take a look at the roof and walls of Heathrow Terminal 4 station you may change your mind.


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