The general economic outlook for the Eastern Europe region is improving, with growth momentum building. In terms of construction output, many countries in the region posted strong growth figures over the first five months of 2017, following sharp declines over 2016. These markets rely heavily on funds from the European Union (EU) to finance ongoing major infrastructure and other public projects. In 2016, such funds stalled, and many projects in the region were put on hold. Indeed, there was a halt in investment spending across much of Europe, as the 2014-2020 funding period was delayed significantly, and, generally, the release of funds was delayed until early 2017. The stoppage in public funds had a much wider impact; private construction projects were also delayed, and it weighed on the broader economy over the year.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), part of the TEN-E Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), will supply natural gas to Europe from Azerbaijan — but will this give gas security to the EU?
Timetric’s Construction Intelligence Center (CIC) has sharply revised down its outlook for construction output in Poland as EU financial assistance is at a standstill. Nathan Hayes, economist at CIC, discusses the situation.
Darren Hook, managing director of English Heritage Buildings, discusses Green Oak as the superior building material and why it is good for the environment.
Ian Anfield, managing director for leading construction audit, contract and payroll provider Hudson Contract, comments on recent talk of a UK recession in light of the Brexit vote.Whether we’re entering a recession or not is a big talking point at the moment. Certainly, we at Hudson Contract have seen that the number of operatives averaged per client has dipped by 4.5% in the last three months, but it’s unclear if that means an output dip or the beginning of a long downturn. There are so many factors to be considered but I have an impression that any downturn may be relatively short-lived. I read a piece written by HSBC’s chief economist who commented that the government has done a number of credible things since the vote. These included ensuring new leadership headed by Theresa May, ruling out an early General Election, and ruling out an emergency budget. Taking time to speak with European leaders and not triggering Article 50 this year all seems to make economic common sense. It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. The latest reports from the Purchasing Managers’ Index reveals that construction output also recovered last month following a seven-year low in July. It appears that business confidence is stabilising and the feared short-term effects of the referendum have been short-lived to a certain extent. Overall I’m definitely one for seeing the glass being half-full for the construction industry. Private business can and will build if the government act in a decisive and positive way to minimise the uncertainty the Brexit vote created. We’ve all seen how Team GB performed recently — it’s time the whole country took on the ‘Believe’ mantra.
Work to upgrade the Farnworth tunnel as part of a route electrification project called for enlargement works, and led to the procurement of a UK-manufactured TBM. Ian Clarke, writing for the manufacturer, reports.Tunnel Engineering Services (TES) recently provided a specially designed tunnel boring machine (TBM) in support of the Network Rail route electrification project between Manchester and Preston via Bolton which when completed will electrify one of the North West's busiest routes and allow faster trains with more passenger space.As part of the construction works there was a requirement to reconstruct/enlarge the Farnworth Tunnel which is on the line about 4km southeast of Bolton. The reconstruction was required because the original tunnel size wouldn’t allow the installation of the new overhead power lines required by the new trains.As well as the tunnel rebuild, some 1,600m of track through the area also had to be lowered to ensure smooth running of the electrified rail line.ChallengesThe original tunnel was constructed in the mid-1830s and runs over a length of some 270m. The construction comprises a mix of brick and stone lining with stone portals through a mix of ground conditions.Prior to the electrification reconstruction works commencing, over 1,500 ground investigation bores were made to establish what ground types would need to be handled by the tunnelling machine during the excavation operation. After examining the market, TES was approached as the potential TBM manufacturer with a brief to design what ultimately proved to be the largest TBM ever constructed in the UK.The TBM, named Fillie, had to bore a new 270m-long tunnel, removing some 30,000t of material and install 1,940 concrete lining segments to complete the new tunnel. Work started at the site in March 2015 in preparation for the arrival of the TBM.Prior to works starting, construction of the TBM itself was something of a challenge. Having to excavate the original tunnel with its Victorian interlocked solid stone work, brick lining and the surrounding ground meant that the design had to be not only durable to enable the very hard stone work to be removed but also flexible enough to enable excavation unit changes relatively quickly and easily as the ground conditions changed during the tunnel advance.The location and proposed route of the new Farnworth Tunnel was such that it effectively required the removal of pretty much all of the existing tunnel alignment and also required the excavation for the new tunnel to, at times, pass very close to the original smaller diameter Farnworth (running) Tunnel that was built in the early 1830s. Because of these proximities it was decided that a full face TBM would not be appropriate for this drive. After careful consideration of the predicted conditions both for ground and tunnelling works, TES, in co-operation with the team from tunnelling contractor J. Murphy & Sons ultimately designed the 9m outside diameter open face shield, with leading edge 'forepoling' boards for initial ground support at the face, that utilised centrally-mounted twin mining booms that could each carry a roadheader drum cutter and/or a bucket excavator. In the event, despite not having been initially designed for this use, ground conditions meant that booms were also utilised with a combination of hydraulic breaker and bucket depending on the ground type encountered.TES received the first enquiry about a possible tunnelling machine from Murphy in November, 2014. The initial brief was that the machine would need to handle foam concrete, solid stone brick and what was believed to be softer ground types along the tunnel bore route. In barely one month an initial design for the excavator-based TBM was presented and Murphy agreed to proceed, provided the unit was ready to be on site no later than July 2015.In just seven months, by July 2015 TES had completed the design, built and completed testing on the shield section of the tunnelling machine. By the end of July, whilst TES was finalising testing of the segment lining erector in the yard, engineers from Murphy were dismantling the front end of the shield alongside TES engineers for transport to site. The complete unit was ultimately dismantled at the TES yard in just two days. At the Farnworth Tunnel site, in association with TES engineers, Murphy rebuilt the whole machine in just five days. The machine commenced tunnelling immediately on completion of the build.Tunnelling worksWhilst the machine was under construction, from March 2015, Murphy had commenced preparation works with the construction of the launch portal for the TBM and filled the old tunnel from end to end completely with 7,500m3 of foam concrete. This was intended to provide support to the old tunnel and surrounding ground as it was excavated. Despite the more than 1,500 test holes drilled to investigate the ground conditions, the drive actually encountered far more sand than was predicted.The excavation removed all of the old tunnel, upsizing the diameter by some 2 to 3m to 9m o.d. The route ran mostly on the line of the old tunnel which included an existing curve. The new tunnel curve however was not as tight as the old one to allow the new route to handle the newer trains. However, the new tunnel route passed very close to the alignment of the Farnworth (running) Tunnel, passing by with as little as 2m clearance at times.As well as removing the old tunnel, the new route also required the invert of the old tunnel to be excavated because the upsizing of the existing tunnel was confined vertically due to limited ground cover over the drive. However, once the new track is completed the track horizon is not expected to be much lower than the old track.At the start of tunnelling works the excavator booms were fitted with roadheader drum cutters which were used to cut through the old tunnel headwall. The high stone strength caused significant vibrations when cutting which meant that the use of the drum cutters had to be limited. So, once sufficient of the headwall was removed it was decided to exchange the drum cutters for hydraulic pick units or peckers to limit the impact of excavation vibrations on the machine structure. Whilst the original TBM design did not take into account the use of peckers, the interchange was made possible with minor modifications so the tunnelling process could proceed. However ground conditions deteriorated into running sand at times which caused delays as Murphy had to inject ground stabilisation resins ahead of the face.This was also a necessity where the tunnel ran beneath the alignment of the A666 road. As the tunnel passed beneath the road, the surface experienced some anticipated subsidence. However plans had been put into place should this occur and the road was resurfaced back to its original level during an overnight operation with minimal, if any, disruption to this busy traffic route.It proved possible to safely excavate while concurrently installing and grouting sections of the tunnel wall as was originally planned. At one other point in the excavation a running sand inrush occurred with some 100t of sand burying the machine face. This caused a further delay as the site had to be open cut using a shaft to re-stabilise the ground over the TBM face. However the remedial works worked very well and despite the ground problems the TBM completed the new 270m tunnel on 30 October 2015.
The analysts at Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center report on the current state of the UK housing market, and what's to come.
National markets across Europe are responding to current market conditions in varying ways. The team of analysts at Timetric's Construction Intelligence Center examine the current trends across the continent.
There’s no doubt that for the idea of the Northern Powerhouse to become a reality we need better infrastructure in the North, and we need it fast. But how do we build the schools, houses, hospitals, rail stations and other buildings we need across the region quicker and cheaper, without sacrificing quality? John Edwards at Atkins Group looks at solutions.
One critically important, but perhaps under discussed, area of the Northern Powerhouse is energy. In particular, where will it be generated, what technologies will be used now and in the future and how will it be decarbonised? And most importantly, how will it be distributed effectively and efficiently across the Northern Powerhouse. Paul Yates at Atkins Group discusses.
When the Highways Agency announced its Collaborative Delivery Framework in November 2014, it emphasised collaboration among all partners as the key ingredient in the successful delivery of the £24 billion investment to transform England’s major road networks up to 2021. Simon Ellison, Highways Sector Director at Costain, outlines his views.
The UK is contemplating the pros and cons of constructing the world’s longest road tunnel. Not yet named, it would be an improvement of the A628 connection between Sheffield and Manchester, located in the Peak District, a hilly National Park in the North of England. Alex Conacher, editor of Tunnels & Tunnelling magazine, examines the potential project.