What has been your favourite project that you’ve worked on for Bachy Soletanche?
While it has been a privilege to have worked in joint venture teams on major infrastructure projects including HS2, Crossrail, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and the Jubilee Line Extension, my first project with Bachy Soletanche working on the Blackpool Tanks Project between 1998 and 1999 remains a favourite.
At the time, this design and build project was of substantial scale and value to Bachy Soletanche, which involved the challenge of constructing 60,000m3 of stormwater storage tank capacity in the form of two 36m diameter, 40m deep, and 1.5m thick diaphragm wall shafts using a combination of grab and hydrofraise rigs in an urban environment.
As Principal Contractor we were also responsible for delivering the bulk excavation; the reinforced concrete works including capping beams, base slabs, and roof slabs; and a 1.8m diameter tunnel to connect the two tanks.
Looking back, you could say the Blackpool Tanks project was an ancestor to the more recent Lee Tunnel and Thames Tideway projects, which have seen Bachy Soletanche push diaphragm wall shaft construction to a far greater scale than was experienced on this project.
The challenges we faced at Blackpool make the project even more memorable, from constructing 450m3 diaphragm wall panels, to the significant challenge of constructing the heavily reinforced concrete base slabs to each tank which were made complicated by water flowing from abandoned site investigation boreholes, and to the difficult task of constructing the tunnel in ground that was frozen by liquid nitrogen.
My responsibilities on this project provided me with invaluable knowledge, experience, and skills that I used to achieve my professional qualification to become a Chartered Civil Engineer and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, career achievements of which I am particularly proud.
The internationally recognised professional qualification and post-nominal letters “CEng MICE” illustrates a mark of excellence, demonstrates the benefit and reward of the professional development I achieved from working on the Blackpool Tanks project, and provides the inspiration to our next generation of ground engineering specialists to develop and succeed in their careers.
If you could have worked on any engineering project in history, what would it have been and why?
It would have been fascinating to have worked on the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington and Farringdon, as when completed in 1863 this was the first urban underground railway in the world and one that would develop into the London Underground “Tube” network.
The boldness and determination of the Victorian civil engineers to create imaginative engineering solutions using pioneering construction techniques would certainly have been a fantastic experience at the time.