Archive for the Tunnels Category

Interesting Definitions

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , on September 25, 2012 by awickerman

I’m clicking through one of the tunnelling comic and see the decidedly vague headline European countries agree on railway tunnel construction. Slightly curious I head to the article and discover it is in fact about a tunnel between Turkey and Georgia, neither of which really fit in my mental definition of Europe. Of course they are both in Eurovision, but everybody is in Eurovision, I mean Morocco was once in Eurovison.

Luckily this isn’t just me, the geography-defying ambition of Eurocrats aside everyone else agrees both nations are, in fact, in Asia. Well the UN statistical bods do and frankly that’s good enough for me.

The wonderful world of the railways

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, The Railways, Tunnels with tags , , , , on November 10, 2011 by awickerman

Started the week all set for an exciting run of tunnel inspecting night shifts, having made the mistake of not getting it wrong the last few times round I was top of the list this year. While some idiot had booked Tuesday to Friday night, instead of the more civilised Monday to Thursday I had carefully established as the norm, it was still four short nights work for five full days pay. Variety being the spice of life I was also looking forward to the change of scene and a chance to escape the office.

Things began well when, before we even began, Thursday night was cancelled as Network Rail wanted to put a test train through and so cancelled all other work on site. When we arrived on Tuesday night things improved further when, due to a combination of the world’s slowest road-railer and a double booking, from our original 3 hour time slot we managed about 1hr 30 of work. That’s 1hr 30 including travel time around the site, so you can imagine how little we actually achieved.

Things hit a peak on Wednesday night when both that night’s work was cancelled due to a tiny mistake in the paperwork AND Friday night was also canned, as Network Rail belatedly pulled the plug, perhaps realising that Friday night is a right bugger to resource and they couldn’t manage it. Almost as if I had deliberately avoided Fridays in previous years for a reason that wasn’t just personal comfort…..

As this is all abortive works we can just pass all the costs onto the client and leave them to argue over who’s fault it is, thus I can happily stick down a full week on the timesheet having only gone to site twice and done barely 1hr of actual work. As a bonus all the work still needs doing before year end, so we’ll be back out in a few weeks for a second attempt, all charged as extras.

To all politicians, rail users and transport pressure groups I say thank you for this wonderful paid holiday. If you focused on the current network and all the problems there, instead of scrapping over white elephants like HS2, I might have been forced to some real work this week.

Why civil engineering is not respected

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Irregular Features, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Railways, The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by awickerman

It is a common complaint among engineers that the profession is under-valued, the conversation then normally ranges over the usual topics;  Why are photocopier repair men called engineers? Why don’t we have something like the German Engineer’s Law to protect the name engineer? Why is it that providing the power, gas and water people need is ignored while shagging ex-Big Brother contestants a matter of national concern? In truth these are not good or even original questions, but it does get the conversation going in the pub which is often the main thing.

What never get mentions is the habit of the engineering profession of doing it’s level best to repeatedly bugger up it’s own chances. Consider the ICE London Civil Engineering Awards. Look at some of these past winners;

  • 2010 – Infrastructure Award: King’s Cross St Pancras Underground Station Redevelopment – Phase 2
  • 2009 – Greatest Contribution to London Award: Heathrow Terminal 5A
  • 2008 – Special Award: Wembley Stadium

King’s Cross Phase 2 was a nightmare, this brief history barely covers half the problems but suffice to say horrifically late and well over budget cover it quite well. T5A construction (as opposed to the fit out and staff training) was in fact on time and on budget, but frankly that was irrelevant to the general public perception of the whole project wasn’t it? Nothing really needs saying on Wembley Stadium,  but for those who’ve forgotten it was several years late, over twice the original budget and that the at least one of the multiple court cases over the construction was still going earlier this year.

The pattern you should note is that for most of the population the ICE London branch goes around giving it’s best awards to late, over-priced or otherwise flawed projects. Sure from a purely technical viewpoint they were a triumph for the engineers involved (commercially not so much, particularly not Wembley which the FA got on a fixed price. Genius I tell you), but they are not calculated to make the profession look good, particularly at the showcase event of the year.

Still for those who insist the profession has a higher status I bring good news. This year’s infrastructure award went to the Boris Bikes, a scheme with all the civil engineering content of the average banana, but one that will doubtless garner many fluffy headlines and approving nods from the Guardian….. It’s enough to make a man turn to drink really.

The north/south divide

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 15, 2011 by awickerman

A new take on this old chestnut from a tunnelling perspective. Some of the high voltage cable circuits installed back in the 1960s are becoming ‘life expired’ and need replacing with new ones.

In Liverpool the plan is to dig up the roads, excavate a giant trench and put them in there, three years (or more) of disrupting the entire region that is apparently perfectly acceptable.

In contrast in London a vast sum of money is spent on building a tunnel instead of digging up local roads, disrupting traffic and winding up the locals.

Though of course you will always offend locals whatever you do, apparently the solution of ‘We’ll stop the construction works if you stop using electricity’ is not an acceptable form of community relations…

The wrong opportunity

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Rantings, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by awickerman

You know you said “Yes” to the wrong overtime opportunity when you spend the early hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning huddling in the exhaust fumes of a diesel generator because, though the fumes are unpleasant and it’s noisy, it is at least warm and out of the wind.

A good time was had by almost no-one down that railway tunnel.

A minor design fault

Posted in Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by awickerman

Are you worried your house will fall into the Crossrail tunnels? Are you concerned Crossrail 2 (the Chelsea to Hackney Line) will mean your house has to be destroyed? Terrified that the bits on the end of Crossrail may end up being connected to the rest of the railways through your house?

Well worry no more! The Crossrail safeguarding team will tell you so your vague worries can crystallise into actual terror, all through the medium of a handy web based search.

There is but one minor flaw, as far as I can tell it only shows a result if your property is in or close to the limits, everyone else in Central London gets this message;

“Sorry, we couldn’t find your postcode.”

Which really doesn’t help. Admittedly I believe this message actually means “You are outside the safeguarded routes so will be fine”, but that’s only because I already know where those routes are. A nice idea, let down by someone buggering up the error handling I suspect.

This feature is not available for High Speed 2, mainly because there is no safeguarded route for HS2. There is no safeguarded route because people still haven’t decided quite where it’s going. But worry not, there is a giant pot of money knocking about for the ‘Exceptional hardship‘ of someone possibly building a giant high speed railway nearby. Of course when (if?) anyone finally picks a route, and decides which bunch of home owners in the Chilterns to forever offend, this scheme will close and be replaced by the standard compensation scheme. So hurry now to claim your money, the properly thought out not-exceptional compensation scheme is far less generous.

How do you run out of Sand?

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by awickerman

In yet another triumph of reporting old news I can now reveal India is running short of sand. This problem has been going on for quite some time, at least as far back as February 2010 in fact, but has only recently come to my attention as it has finally affected something important; tunnels.

Yes part of the latest attempt to provide fresh clean water to Bombay has been held up due to a lack of sand. As to how the question ‘How do you run out of sand’ there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. It looks like a combination of (presumably) well intentioned environmental legislation and a vicious sand tax. In any event there’s a lot less sand about the place, production is down 95%, and prices are up six fold to 12,000 rupee per brass. (Why they use the word brass instead of 100 cubic feet is a good question. As is the question of why they still use cubic feet. But those are good questions for another time.).

One of the few points everyone agrees on is that there is no physical shortage of sand, it’s just people aren’t allowed to get at it/have to pay too much to get it. Indeed the last attempt to auction off new sand mining sites flopped because the licences were too expensive. I confess to being a little unsure over this entire affair. Certainly you can’t imagine this happening in China, they’d just shoot the judges and environmentalists and then order everyone back to the sand mines. That the Indian courts feel they can bring the entire construction industry to a standstill on environmental reasons is certainly a very ‘Western’ thing to do, I’m just not sure it’s a good thing.

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