Archive for Tunnels

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Heating at Heathrow

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2010 by awickerman

As is painfully obvious Heathrow Airport doesn’t have heated runways, but then the excuse goes that back in the 1950s when they built them (and the 1970s when they rebuilt them for jets) how could they have known Global Warming Climate Change would cause so much snow?

It’s a good answer, only slightly undermined by the fact that 1968 saw the construction of the Heathrow Cargo Tunnel which, due to a fairly steep slope at one end, has an under road heating system to keep the approach roads ice free. A system they still keep in operation to this day and one which is working perfectly (Though sadly the surrounding roads are still buggered and the airport is frozen, but that’s not the point right now.)

Worth bearing in mind next time BAA put up a spokesman saying ‘It wasn’t worth money investing in equipment when we didn’t get heavy snow and bad winters’, because clearly the tunnellers they employed disagreed. Sadly the runway chaps, as always, just couldn’t match those high standards.

Making Yourself Look Stupid

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Engineering, Rantings, The Idiocy and Ignorance of Gilligan, Tunnels with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2010 by awickerman

Let us say you are a journalist who’s got an axe to grind about High Speed  2. You want to knock of a blog post damning the project, do you do a very,very brief bit of research on the subject or do you just make something up that suits your prejudice?

If you chose the later option well done, there may well be a job at the Telegraph for you. Certainly they let Andrew Gilligan get away with making himself look an idiot by making things up;

And tens of thousands of Londoners in Primrose Hill, Swiss Cottage, Kilburn, Queens Park and Kensal Green are also at risk of vibration from tunnels under or near their homes.

No-one has ever suffered vibration from trains in tunnels 20m below ground level. Hell no-one suffers vibrations from tunnels a couple of meters below ground level, it is quite possibly one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen written about a train tunnel, and given some of the spectacuarly dense people I’ve dealt with over the years that is saying something.

The worst thing is if he’d wanted to do a blatantly unfair hatchet job on the scheme there were countless legitimate scare stories he could have used, problems that are actually possible and don’t make him look like a feckless idiot.

Looking at his other transport related posts I feel a series coming on – “The On-Going Dribblings of the Lazy and/or Ignorant Fool Gilligan”. It may need a snappier title.

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