Civil Engineering excellence in Essex

Last Friday I spent the third and final day touring projects that had entered the ICE East of England Merit Awards 2014.  You can read about the first two days of visits on my blog here.  This final days projects were all in the South of the region in my home town of Southend and at the new London Gateway Port at Coryton.  I was one of three judges and unfortunately my Chairman’s Apprentice and fellow judge Beth couldn’t make it and so local civil engineer and STEM Ambassador Janet Nelson came along.

The first visit of the day was to the Cliff Stabilisation project.  A decade or so ago a section of Southend’s cliffs below the bandstand slipped taking some of the bandstand structures with it and covering some of the seafront highway.  It has been a long time coming but the area has now been stabilised by installing a big piled wall at the top and a king post wall at the bottom with the cliffs between being reshaped to suit.

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Piled wall at top (behind mew timber cladding)

The work looks straightforward however the instability of the ground made the work complex and technically demanding for the heavy equipment needed to do the work.  Its proximity to the town and residential properties and the requirement to carry out the work outside of the summer period further complicated the work.  I visited the project during the works and wrote a blog which can be found here.

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Top and bottom walls seen from the seafront

From the seafront it was only a short walk up the High Street to the Southend Railway Bridge Replacement project.  This was an extremely visible example of Civil Engineering that culminated in the replacement of the old railway bridge over the pedestrianised High Street over a weekend closure of the railway.  Most of the new bridge and supports were pre-fabricated off site and installed using a combination of heavy lift crane and Self Propelled Modular Transporters (SPMTs).

I didn’t get many photos but there are loads in my blog from when the bridge was installed.  There is also a very good timelapse video of the bridge installation on You Tube that can be found here.

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New bridge seen from the adjacent car park.

With the sun still shining we hopped in our cars for the short drive down to London Gateway Port near Stanford-le-Hope where we were to visit a number of separate projects with different delivery teams that had been entered in the various categories.  We assembled at the new Administration Building where we met a number of key staff from overall client DP World and the clients designers for the project as a whole CGR.  After the presentation and so very nice sarnies we loaded up to a 4WD for a tour of the site taking in the various projects on the way.  Unusually for me I didn’t take many photographs.

First up was the entrance complex which we drove through and had a chat about.  The entrance complex includes various gates and clever technology to get vehicles into the port smoothly and rapidly along with well considered below ground service routes and drainage and a vast area of block paving – all installed in a very tight programme.

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Beginning of the entrance complex seen from a 4WD

We continued through the port and past the fully automated container stacks and stopped at the maintenance and control building complex at the far eastern end of the site.  After a tour of the impressive and extremely clean and tidy workshops we mounted up for a rendezvous with a medium size container ship that was about to berth at the quay.

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The spotless maintenance workshops
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A medium sized container ship berthing – looked big to me!

After a quick look at the quayside cranes we mounted up again and headed to another rendezvous – this time at the Border Control and UK Customs buildings near the entrance complex.  These buildings are where goods passing through the port can be inspected before being allowed to continue their journeys.  The buildings were very impressive with many different internal storage and inspection rooms and circulation areas which had to be maintained at differing temperatures to suit the different goods they might handle.  One room we went into was at -24 degrees.  We didn’t stop long in there.

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A circulation area in one of the border control buildings

We mounted up again and returned to the Administration building to meet up with another tour guide who would show us around two other projects that were more port enablers than port facilities.  A quick drive up the road brought us to the A13/Manorway junction which was modified to upgrade it to cater for the increased traffic expected for the new port.  A new bridge over the A13 was constructed and an existing bridge widened all whilst keeping the traffic flowing.  We didn’t stop and so I took no photos however an aerial shot from t’internet is included below.

4. A13 A1014 Junction improvements - Project at completion
A view of the completed junction

From here was dropped in to the port access bridge project offices to hear about that particular project.  The access bridge was required to carry the main port access road over the railway connecting the railhead to the network and was building on very poor ground (basically a bog) in a very short timescale.  Polystyrene fill was used in the approach embankments to reduce ground loadings and surcharging was used to instigate as much settlement as possible beforehand.  An innovative project management method was also described involving short – standing only – weekly meetings and wall mounted info-boards which was particularly impressive.

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The port access bridge – taken from the Administration Building

With that visit over we were done for the formal visits of the day although there was just time for Construction Director Andrew Bowen to return us to the quayside for the usual opportunity to ascend one of the enormous quayside cranes to take in the view over Essex, Kent and London.  I had been up a crane on a previous visit with the then ICE President Barry Clarke where I demonstrated only too well my fear of heights so I gratefully declined the offer this time but both Glen and Janet made the trip.  Trust me when I say it is not somewhere you want to go if you don’t like heights and I think I could see Janets white knuckles from the ground.

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Andrew Janet and Glen at the main boom level
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And the view from the ground

Whilst Janet and Glen were enjoying the view I watched as an adjacent cranes was loading containers onto the ship that we saw berthing earlier.  Once again I watched in complete awe at the way the cables from the bogies to the box sway from side to side as the bogies trolley in and out yet the container / lifting assembly track gracefully out and back.  There are some seriously clever computers that control the lifting gear to keep the container in exactly the same place.  Amazes me every time I visit.

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Adjacent crane loading containers
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Checkout the angle of the cables!
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And again – amazing!

And with that we headed back to the offices to say our thanks and goodbyes and we were gone.  One throw-away comment from Andrew on the return to the office really got my interest.  We were talking about how the port could probably charge for guided tours of the port – as it is so interesting – and he said that was being considered, but more interestingly he was considering organizing a 5k charity run around the port including along the quayside under the cranes.  I would be first in the queue for that believe me!

Thanks to everyone who hosted our visits and enthusiastically showed us around their projects. #LoveCivilEngineering

 

 

 

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