Monthly Archives: September 2013

San Francisco Celebrates New Bridge in Vintage Style

san fran bridge vintage cars world infrastructure news

A convoy of vintage cars has marked the official opening of the new $6.4 billion east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in California. The cavalcade took place on September 2nd in scenes reminiscent of November 1936 when the Bay Bridge was first opened to traffic almost exactly 75 years ago.

The new east span replaces the original structure which was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and its design is informed by analysis carried out by seismology experts. It is believed to be resilient enough to have withstood any of the earthquakes that have occurred at its location over a 1,500 year period.

Some 12 years in the planning and construction stages and beset with delays and over-spends, the authorities are happy to see it finally up and open to commuters. In an article in The Times, Steve Heminger, head of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission stated, “Despite the journey’s length, it has been completed before the arrival of our next big earthquake. And thank goodness for that.”

With its striking looks, the bridge is also being hailed as a major new work of public art. So much so that motorists have been warned to keep their eyes firmly on the road and let their passengers take the photos and video clips as they cross.

Pedestrians and cyclists were able to use a partially completed 15.5 ft wide cycle/pedestrian path which opened on September 3rd.


Construction bosses take up George Osborne’s challenge on HS2

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After a mounting tide of negative press and dire warnings of spiralling costs, UK Chancellor George Osborne has robustly defended the HS2 high speed rail project on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. The Chancellor told Marr that “we have set the budget for £42bn for the construction costs. That includes, by the way, a big contingency [£14bn]. As we demonstrated with the Olympic Games, we can deliver these big projects actually sometimes under budget”.

And it seems the UK construction industry agrees with him according to a recent letter to the Telegraph from the heads of the Association for Consulting and Engineering, Arup Group, Atkins UK, Balfour Beatty, Kier Group, Laing O’Rourke, Mott MacDonald Group, and Skanska UK.

In it they state, “We gladly accept the challenge of completing Phase One of HS2 on schedule – and for less than the Government’s target of £17.16 billion. We applaud the Government’s support for investment in infrastructure and in particular HS2, which addresses a looming capacity crunch on rail and road networks.”

The letter went on to suggest that HS2 will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers and will create jobs and support economic growth. In response to claims that the whole project is set to go massively over budget, the industry heads said, “Funding secured for HS2 rightly includes a contingency – a responsible way to plan a project on this scale. Yet artificially inflated figures circulated by opponents recently in no way represent the outcome we expect.”


Centrica puts plans for new UK gas storage facility on hold

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Centrica’s £1.4bn plans to develop a major new UK gas storage facility at Bacton in Norfolk have been dealt a serious blow by the UK government. Ministers have decided against providing subsidies for gas storage projects such as this, saying it would be a waste of bill-payers’ money because Britain has plentiful gas supplies.

Centrica has previously stated that “the project is unlikely to proceed without some form of government support”. Now all the signs are that the creation of the new storage plant will not be going ahead as things currently stand.

The company has also warned that the decision could lead to a sharp rise in gas prices should supplies run short. Britain has enough gas stored to last just 15 days, whereas many other European countries have far larger reserves.

The shelved project, a joint venture between Centrica Storage Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centrica plc) and Parenco UK, proposed the conversion of the Baird gas field into an offshore storage plant 86 km off the north coast of Norfolk. A scoping report for offshore environmental impact assessment was carried out by RPS Energy in 2009, and a planning application was submitted in February 2010.

Onshore planning permission for the project was granted by local authorities in July 2010, with front-end engineering design (FEED) of the onshore facilities supplied by Genesis Oil & Gas Consultants and Jacobs.

At 108 bcf Baird would have been the second largest gas storage facility in the UK after Rough, owned by Centrica Storage Limited.


Written By admin 
September 11, 2013 12:31 pm
Posted In Business, ENERGY

Jacobs Engineering to acquire Sinclair Knight Merz

jacobs skm world infrastructure news

News has just broken of a proposed merger between California-based Jacobs Engineering Group Inc and Australian consultancy, Sinclair Knight Merz. The merger is to be effected by Jacobs acquiring SKM to the tune of approximately $1.2bn in cash.

Although the merger is still subject to acceptance by SKM’s shareholders, the company’s Board of Directors has unanimously recommended they vote in favour.

In a press release issued today by SKM, its CEO and managing director, Santo Rizzuto welcomed the announcement, saying, “This is an exciting opportunity. It uniquely positions us amongst our global peers and opens the way for us to achieve even greater things in the future. It adds scale, diversification and growth opportunities to our business.”

In the same press release, Jacob’s president and CEO, Craig Martin, states that the combination is a unique fit that strongly delivers on the company’s strategic ambitions, adding that SKM’s culture, values and operating philosophy were very compatible with theirs.

Martin concluded, “Our capabilities and geographies have little overlap, enabling us together to continue to expand our client relationships and provide significant opportunities for our employees. We are enthusiastic about the potential.”

If the merger goes ahead as anticipated, it will be the seventh acquisition by Jacobs in the last three years. The company has been seeking to expand in the oil, gas and chemicals sectors and the proposed merger with SKM could help them to achieve this. SKM has operations in Australia, Asia, South America and Britain, consulting for clients in sectors including energy, power, mining and metals.


Written By admin 
September 10, 2013 16:24 pm
Posted In Business, ENERGY

Kenya’s ‘Lunatic Express’ to be rebuilt by China

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The Telegraph reports that China is taking over where the British left off by ploughing £3.2bn into new infrastructure projects in Kenya. While these include port expansion and hydro-electric dams, the main focus of the investment is to be the so-called “Lunatic Express” train line, originally built by British engineers and African and Indian workers over 100 years ago.

The 660-mile track from Mombassa to Lake Victoria came in massively over-budget when it was finally completed in 1901, and cost nearly 2,500 unfortunate workers their lives – hence its name.

Much of the track has fallen into dereliction thanks to years of what the Telegraph refers to as “state-sponsored looting”, with top speeds of only 20 mph even on the best sections. This has caused freight to be forced onto busy, unreliable and poorly maintained roads.

The Chinese now plan to rebuild the train line using a new standard gauge track in a deal struck with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. According to the Kenyan government, the new rail link could knock 79 per cent off the cost of moving freight across East Africa.

The Chinese have been able to make inroads into Kenya as Western allies have taken a step back due to Kenyatta’s alleged crimes against humanity – for which he is to be tried in the International Criminal Court this November. Some worry that Kenya is putting all its eggs into one basket with the Chinese and further alienating old friends.

However, in the Telegraph report, Nairobi businessman, Charles Nderitu, who exports sugar to the Gulf had this to say. “I’m looking at the bottom line, and if I can move my produce along some new, fast, cheap railway, instead of by lorries that cost so much and are always breaking down, I don’t care who builds that railway. It worked for the colonialists when they opened it before. Now it’s time to rebuild it so that it works for us Kenyans.”


Written By admin 
September 10, 2013 10:22 am
Posted In Rail, TRANSPORT

Terenez Bridge and Port Botany Expansion announced as joint winners of World Infrastructure Awards for Transport

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The inaugural World Infrastructure Awards judging session was a resounding success, with a team of esteemed judges slugging it out over a wealth of innovative, daring and beautiful projects.

We were happy to welcome Buro Happold infrastructure expert Philip Bates, Arup’s Global Infrastructure Practice Chair Peter Chamley, European Investment Bank Urban Planning advisor Brian Field, Beckett Rankine Director and maritime civil engineer Gordon Rankine, and Strategic Transport Director for Atkins Andy Southern to our panel.

The scrutinised projects offered a truly global spread, with ports, airports, roads and bridges and tunnels strongly represented. The contenders ranged from spiralling, neon-lit footbridges to record-breaking tunnelling endeavours; from brazen pieces of infrastructure-as-public-art to hulking monoliths that somehow melted into their desolate surroundings.

Such was the strength of the pack, our judges found it impossible to settle on one winning project. Hence, joint winners were necessary. First to stop the judges in their tracks was the Port Botany Expansion Project in Sydney, by Baulderstone and Jan de Nul. With their engineering hats on, Peter and Gordon glowed over the innovative use of precast counterfort retaining wall units, and the unique radial crane system used for efficient on-site casting. The rest of the panel marvelled at the “scale and ingenuity” of the project, which no doubt represents the pinnacle of port engineering – perhaps the unsung hero of the infrastructure world.

Secondly, the panel could not tear their eyes from the gorgeous images of the Terenez Bridge in France – by SETRA, Virlogeux, Lavigne-Chéron Architectes and ARCADIS. The bridge’s eye-catching curve not only provides “excellent aesthetics”, the judges agreed, but elegantly accommodates the pre-existing curvature of the road. This graceful response to a brief, in a “stunning” combination of engineering and design, left our judges universally wowed.

Two bridge projects were selected for high commendation by the judges. First, the US-191 Colorado River Bridge, by FIGG, was upheld as a triumph of design in the arid, red setting of Moab. The subtle beauty of its red arches, mirroring the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty, was ruminated on as a fabulous example of infrastructure complimenting the natural environment.

Second, the Milton-Madison Bridge Replacement project, by Buckland & Taylor, was chosen to be highly commended. The panel was bowled over by the time-saving lateral thinking and ingenuity inherent in the project, which sees a new bridge constructed then slid into place onto existing foundations.

So, after the dust settled, we were left to survey two very distinct projects held equally above a shortlist that provided pleasing symmetry and geographic diversity in equal measure: two airports, two bridges, a port and a tunnel project, spread over four continents. This was an extremely difficult choice for our judging panel, who were split precisely down the middle. For this reason we would like to offer both Baulderstone and Jan de Nul, and SETRA, Virlogeux, Lavigne-Chéron Architectes and ARCADIS our earnest congratulations for the joint victory of the inaugural World Infrastructure Awards 2013.

Watch the video of the jury selecting the winners below:


Japanese Government orders ice wall to be built at Fukushima

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Following reports of the fifth leak since last year, the Japanese government has taken control of operations to deal with contaminated water issues at the beleaguered Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

Apparently losing patience with the plant operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) and its efforts to deal with the problems, the government has ordered the creation of a 2-mile long underground wall of ice to stop further toxic leaks into the Pacific Ocean. It has pledged 47 billion yen (£304 million) to fund the project.

Tepco has now admitted that radiation from the 1,000 or so steel tanks on site had been allowed to seep out in potentially lethal concentrations. The tanks contain contaminated water used to cool reactors, and 350 of them have vulnerable rubber seams with a shelf life of only five years.

This news was followed on Monday 2nd September by a statement from the head of the country’s new nuclear regulatory body, Shunichi Tanaka, that radioactive water had already reached the ocean.

In order to create the giant ice wall, chemical coolant will be pumped into a network of underground pipes to freeze the ground around the plant. Temperatures would be maintained at -40C to a depth of up to 30 m. However, the ice wall could take up to two years to complete, with the risk of further leakages in the meantime.

The full decommissioning of Fukushima could take as long as 40 years. Tepco plans to start removal of fuel rods this November, but the government has yet to decide on a suitable site for storage.


Written By admin 
September 05, 2013 16:10 pm
Posted In ENERGY