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Strood & Higham TunnelsBackground to the project
Strood and Higham tunnels in North Kent were originally constructed between 1818 and 1825 as part of the Thames Medway Canal, and subsequently converted to a two-track railway by infilling the canal.
The total tunnel length is 3.5km through chalk and, prior to the project, 60% of it was lined, mostly in brick. Numerous chalk falls have been recorded since 1957, with a fall in 1999 resulting in a derailment and the imposition of a 20mph speed restriction.
The design and construction project, with a value of around £35m, is being carried out under a blockade of the line from January 2004 to January 2005. It encompasses lining the unlined sections, renewing the drainage system, track renewal of both lines, renewal of telecoms, signalling and 33kVA cables, and associated signalling works. The lining and drainage works (about £18m of the total contract value) are being carried out by Costain, with AMCO as a sub-contractor.
“From July 2003 to February 2004, I was Assistant Project Manager on the project, helping the core team to deliver project objectives safely, on time and to budget. My role included managing environmental issues including protected species. It was suspected that bats were living within the tunnels and I worked closely with various stakeholders including English Nature, the Environment Agency, local councils and specialist ecologists. I was also involved in the tender for construction management services, planning and reporting methods, and public relations with the local community.
“The variety continued when I was seconded to Costain in March 2004 as a Project Engineer. This gave me the chance to immerse myself in all aspects of the project from setting first and second stage capping beam, erecting arches and co-ordinating concrete pours to project design issues, drainage surveys and environmental considerations.
“Challenges have come thick and fast. Working around live services isn’t easy – nor is achieving two No.10m concrete pours every 24 hours in two tunnels. Simultaneous operations also produce logistical challenges, and we have always had to be conscious that works are close to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as two public water supply abstraction points. Challenging, certainly – but the experience has proved invaluable."
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