Monthly Archives: June 2013

Europe taps into Azerbaijan’s gas fields


It appears that once again commercial considerations have scuppered the EU’s energy aspirations as the Nabucco Pipeline Project is rejected in favour of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). On Wednesday afternoon Gerhard Roiss, the CEO of OMV, the Austrian energy company that led the Nabucco Project, conceded that their proposal was not to be the one chosen by the Shah Deniz consortium to transport gas from Azerbaijan to central Europe.

The project comes as part of a $25 Billion development by the Shah Deniz consortium to utilize Azerbaijan’s extensive gas fields. The Shah Deniz consortium is made up of BP, Norway’s Statoil and Azerbaijan’s national energy company SOCAR and appears to have selected the proposal made by the TAP consortium of Germany’s E. On and the Swiss company Axpo, with the announcement itself scheduled for Friday.

While the European Commission did not officially favour either proposal, the Nabucco pipeline, which was to be one of Europe’s most ambitious infrastructure projects, was widely considered favourable to the EU as a method of diversifying Europe’s energy sources and thus reducing their dependency on Russian gas. The winning Trans-Adriatic Pipeline will run through Greece, Albania and under the Adriatic sea to Italy, a distance 450km shorter than the Nabucco pipeline which was designed to run through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungry and ending in Austria.

The EU was believed to have favoured Nabucco’s proposal because of its ability to better supply the countries in Europe’s Southern Corridor that are almost exclusively dependent on gas from Russia. This comes at a time when Moscow continues to push forward with its plans to secure its influence in the region with its proposed South Stream, a gas pipeline running through Bulgaria, Greece, Austria and Italy that was intended to rival the Nabucco pipeline.

The TAP proposal is believed to have been favoured not only because it is shorter and cheaper to construct, but also because of the higher gas prices available in Italy and Greece than are possible in the markets that the Nabucco pipeline was to accommodate.

Alexander Malden

FCC Clinches £600m Mersey Gateway Bridge Contract

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Spanish infrastructure and environmental services group FCC Construccion has been awarded the contract to engineer, build, fund, operate and maintain Liverpool’s new Mersey Gateway Bridge. The project will generate above 4,600 direct and indirect jobs through its construction, maintenance and operation. The £600m bridge, which will be FCC’s largest ever UK contract, is projected to carry above 80,000 vehicles daily.

Construction on the 2.13 km long bridge is expected to be under way by early 2014, and will last three-and-a-half years. The bridge will be opened to traffic in early 2017. I will be positioned to the east of the Silver Jubilee Bridge, which opened in the 1960s and suffers from severe traffic congestion.

The bridge will comprise a 42 metre-wide cable stayed construction with a top height of 125 metres. Seven kilometres of access roads will also be upgraded as part of the project, with 2.5 kilometres of new toll road planned. 4.5 km of existing toll roads and other communication links will also be upgraded. A free-flow multi-lane tolling system, complete with automatic number plate reading technology, will be installed.

FCC will be partnered by in the concession consortium by Macquarie and Bilfinger, and in construction by Kier and Samsung CT. Other finalists for the contract included the multinational companies Iridium, Bouygues, Hochtief and Balfour Beatty.

FCC’s UK & Ireland Managing Director, Rafael Foulquie, commented: “We are thrilled to be announced as preferred bidder for the Mersey Gateway Bridge. We have been expanding our UK operations steadily, and to be selected for such an important project – not just in terms of infrastructure, but also economically- is a huge step for us.”

He continued, “This is FCC Construccion’s second PPP project in the UK, and we are delighted to have succeeded with our design that is both innovative and cost effective. We are looking forward to being a part of the substantial benefits the new bridge will bring locally, both in terms of local employment and urban regeneration.”

Richard Greenan

Knight Architects and WSP Finland Win Helsinki Bridge Competition

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WSP Finland and bridge experts London based Knight Architects and have triumphed in an open design competition for a three km bridge in Helsinki. The Anglo-Finnish team reached the shortlist after more than 50 entries were whittled down to a final ten during the process of the competition, which was launched in 2011.

The Kruunusillat (Crown Bridges) competition was arranged by the City of Helsinki in order to establish a link between the new waterside community of Kruunuvuorenranta and the centre of the capital. To be used by cyclists, trams and pedestrians, the bridge will form a long-lasting construction synonymous with Helsinki. It will also be Finland’s longest bridge structure.

The proposed “Gemma Regalis” bridge is a symmetrical cable-stayed structure with a central 135m-tall pylon shaped like a slender, tall diamond – a distinctive feature referencing the historic crown ownership of the bay area. This unique pylon supports two 250m spans, softening the environmental impact of multiple supports.

The bridge’s cable-stayed form offers a strong nautical theme, with the twin planes of cables creating a comforting sense of enclosure above the crossing’s central length.

Commenting on the plans, the Crown Bridge jury concluded: “An undeniable merit of the entry is the openness of the underside of the bridge, which diminishes its intrusive effects on the landscape. The bridge’s alignment curves beautifully and with the semblance of grace over the open part of the sea bay. The cable-stayed construction has achieved an extremely light and spacious bridge. The columns under the bridge, as well as the high pylon, have been shaped with care. They are slim and stylish, and the pylon’s open centre lightens its appearance still further.”

Richard Greenan

The Gem Bridge – A Link to the Past

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Ramboll engineering has enabled a piece of classic bridge design to be realised at  a secluded Dartmoor National Park valley, in the form of the Gem Bridge. This unimposing cycling and pedestrian bridge, with its elegant arches and concrete latticework, draws inspiration from the original Walkham Viaduct, designed by Brunel for the South Devon Railway.

The £2.1m Gem bridge is 200 metres in length, and sits on the 440km cross-Channel Cycle West Vélodyssée route, which will eventually reach from Redon in Southern Brittany to Ilfracombe in Devon. Reaching the two sides of Walkham Valley at different heights, the Gem Bridge required a maximum gradient of 1 in 20.

The site’s steep embankment sides posed a challenge for Ramboll, as well as the mine-shafts that are dotted around the site, which reach depths of 50m. As the bridge is part of a cycle and pedestrian route it connects the two sides of the valley at different heights, so the design had to be managed to ensure a maximum gradient of 1 in 20.

15, 15m long sections of steel truss make up the bridge’s five spans, which measure in at 30m, 40m, 60m, 40m and 30m, and boast a total weight of 150 tonnes. The EDG has worked closely with main contractor Dawnus, as well as TEMA Engineering Ltd. 20 tonnes of scaffolding was installed by Dawnus over a tennis court-sized area in order to support a 250 tonne crane for the job. TEMA Engineering Ltd was then responsible for the high-precision installation the bridge’s sections.

Project Supervisor Ben Naylor said “it was important that in designing the different elements we tried to keep the same ethos that was behind Brunel’s structure. You look for influence wherever you can find it. One thing it always comes back to is the original Brunel structure and trying to tie ours back to that historic one”.

Richard Greenan

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AWARD ENTRY: AKT11 Merchant Square Bridge, London

Merchant Square, London

Merchant Square, London

The planning and construction of the Merchant Square footbridge in London’s Paddington is currently underway and is scheduled to be complete by 2014. The pedestrian bridge, designed by London based Knight Architects in collaboration with AKT II Consulting Structural Engineers, will span the Grand Union Canal over a width of 20 metres while guaranteeing a required clear passage of 5.5 x 2.5 metres.

The concept is simple and at the same time spectacular: an inconspicuous three metre wide deck is divided with the aid of hydraulic jacks into a series of cantilevered beams which rotate around the transverse axis – an elegant movement which resembles the opening of a Japanese fan. The rotary movement of the five prefabricated steel beams is staggered so that they start to move simultaneously and come to rest at the same time at different angles of inclination of between 20 and 80 degrees.

The load on the hydraulics is relieved by counterweights, which also reduce the energy required for operation. The balustrades are formed by stainless steel rods which intersect in a skewed pattern, creating a filigree structure. Continuous LED lighting is integrated into the handrail, illuminating the deck adequately and dramatically highlighting the balustrade.
The design of the bridge was chosen so that it will harmonise well with the prestigious, upmarket environment of Merchant Square. During the opening process, the bridge is transformed into a kinetic sculpture, the silhouette of which will emphasise the surrounding open space of ‘Sunset Terrace’

Comment: Philip Bates responds to US Infrastructure report

Philip Bates, Buro Happold

Philip Bates, Buro Happold director of strategic transport responds to our recent feature on the US transport infrastructure dilemma…

The real American Dream hasn’t been cars and freeways – it’s not having to pay the correct yearly amount for those freeways. Still, it’s hard to refuse a free dinner today, even if we know someone will have to pick up the bill tomorrow. What’s more, with the boom in shale and the pattern of low density land use across much of the USA, creating a transport dream that doesn’t involve cars and freeways is many years away. What’s more, it seems most Americans are happy with the dream of cars and freeways and wouldn’t want to change it anyway.

However, the problems of a free lunch on freeway funding are starting to become more and more self-evident. Being responsible for a road network (and indeed any economic infrastructure) is like owning a building. You can cut your spending on maintenance and repairs and for many years things seem, at least on the surface, to be fine. Trouble is all of a sudden all the windows have rotted, the roof and water pipes are leaking and the electricity shorts out. Of course, the correct thing to do is look after the building in the good times, so it can ride out a few bad years. Trouble is, when times are good who wants to waste money on mundane things like building maintenance when there are all those parties to go to!

The US is increasingly reaching this point across much of its highway network. Interestingly, while highways in the US may be deteriorating, people seem to be prepared, at least at present, to put up with the temporary inconvenience. In theory that’s fine; it’s their choice, but it brings us neatly to the key issues; bridges are different to general highways. Highways can wear out, deteriorate, pot hole, etc, but they don’t catastrophically fail but bridges do, and when they do, the loss of life and impact on economic performance can be significant.

The short term solutions are many, with lots of tried and tested mechanisms to deliver rehabilitation of sub-standard bridges using both public and private finance and a range of traditional and innovative procurement models. These solutions seem to vary by scale and importance. Large economically critically bridges often opt for direct user tolls to cover costs, with examples including the Bay Bridge in San Francisco which has paid for seismic retrofits with toll increases. Smaller networks tend to be linked into network wide approaches, with the Missouri Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program being an example of this network wide approach. Finding the optimal solution for each situation can take time, but rest assured, there is an answer.

However, this is a temporary solution if long term maintenance costs are not addressed. If drivers are not prepared to pay the true and full amount for their highways, whether it be through direct motoring related taxes, indirect taxes or direct scheme related user tolls, the infrastructure won’t be maintained, and it will only be a matter of time before you are in the same situation. Perhaps, ultimately the problem comes back to the unique characteristics of America. It’s a big country, with a history of large population movements away from government interference; unease with taxation; and with a pioneer spirit that is wary of anything that can’t be done very locally. Until the American people takes ownership of their national highway network (and especially those critical bridges) as if it was their own house, this problem won’t go away.

Of course, this isn’t a uniquely American problem; we see the same basic issues replicated in their own local way across the globe. The 2006 Eddington Report to the UK Government on the long term links between transport and economic growth concluded; “Because the UK is already well connected, the key economic challenge is therefore to improve the performance of the existing network”. This advice, was quietly filled away. After all, looking after what you have doesn’t offer the same photo opportunities as opening something new and shiny… So, perhaps the problems of inadequate bridge maintenance are ultimately just one more reflection of our modern political systems.

Win an iPad mini…

World Infrastructure Awards 2013 – Promotion

Win an iPad mini

Simply tell us about an innovative infrastructure project (transport), whether a complete scheme, or a clever construction technique and you’ll be entered into our draw and could win a sparkling new iPad mini.

Deadline for entries 30 July 2013


Nominate a project now, email :-

Written By admin 
June 18, 2013 10:33 am
Posted In Promotion

Arup braces as Heatherwick unveils design for £60m London garden bridge

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With the wobbles of the Foster inspired Millennium bridge firmly behind them,  Arup have carried out the engineering on another Thames crossing, this time a Thomas Heatherwick,  post-Olympic creation.

The Highline-esque pedestrian garden bridge which spans the River Thames from Temple to the Southbank has been has been described as “sensational” by TV celebrity Joanna Lumley, who campaigned for the bridge.

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Thomas Heatherwick commented, “With its rich heritage of allotments, gardens, heathland, parks and squares, London is one of the greenest cities in the world. The idea is simple – to connect north and south London with a garden.”

Transport for London (TfL) selected the design after a tendering process and said it hoped the bridge, featuring grasses, trees and wild flowers would create a new walking route from the Southbank to Covent Garden and Soho.

Visualisations of the bridge show the structure widens and narrows across its span. It will be planted with indigenous British and London species.

One of Heatherwick's earliest designs, the highly acclaimed rolling bridge over Paddington Basin

One of Heatherwick’s earliest designs, the highly acclaimed rolling bridge over Paddington Basin, engineering by SKM Anthony Hunt.


The on-going design work for the garden bridge is in close development with Arup and will not be finalised until mid-July. The bridge requires permission from both Westminster and Lambeth councils.

Arup went on to develop the damping system used in the retro fix for the Millennium Bridge into a sophisticated anti-seismic solution for high rise buildings, a replacement for the traditional counter-weight system but will still probably be bracing themselves for some comparisons to their previous pedestrian Thames crossing.

Michael Hammond

Finnish Cable Ferry Replacement Programme – Lövö Bridge

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Ramboll’s Lövö bridge in Finland spans the gap between the islands of Lövö and Söljeholmen – a distance of almost 500 metres and forms part of the Finnish Transport Agency scheme to replace cable ferries with bridges throughout southwest Finland and the Turku Archipelago.

It is a composite girder construction, featuring a reinforced concrete deck eight metres in width. With its height of 18 metres and maximum span length of 100 metres, 98% of ships are able to pass under the Lövö bridge without the risk of collision. The remaining taller vessels are forced to re-route south of Kasnäs.

The LövöIt was constructed by engineering firm Ramboll, reaching completion in the summer of 2011. The steel structures of the bridge were built by Ruukki, with Skanska Infra Oy as the general contractor.

The notoriously icy conditions of the area were a particular concern when designing the Lövö bridge. To withstand these extreme marine conditions and provide a steady base, the Lövö’s piers rise an impressive 20 metres above the surface of the water, while its piles plunge beneath the surface by the same distance. This heavy duty construction possesses a maximum 300 tonne collision capacity.

Richard Greenan