A £635,000 project to renew an ageing gas main on one of Staffordshire’s busiest traffic routes overcame a catalogue of obstacles to finish in record-breaking time - and with no complaints.
Cadent and its construction management partners for the West Midlands - Arcadis-Network Plus - upgraded nearly 7km of iron gas mains on the busy A34, between Stafford and Stone, in just eight weeks, earning them a pat on the back from Staffordshire Highways Authority.
The ageing mains were replaced with tough new plastic pipes that will keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses into the next century.
At 6.7 kilometres, the project is one of the largest to be undertaken as part of a 300km construction management contract being delivered between June 2019 and March 2021.
However, busy traffic, water leaking into the old gas main, nearby high-voltage electricity cables and gas and water pipes, and, just for good measure, a global pandemic also made it one of the most challenging.
Thanks to thorough planning, good communications and a dash of ingenuity, colleagues not only overcame the difficulties but also managed to slash the number of days they were working in the road by 30 and cut the number of excavations needed by 65%.
Richard Cook, project manager for the 300km programme of works, said: “Projects like this are critical to keeping our underground gas pipes in good condition so we can deliver gas safely and reliably to the homes, businesses and public services that rely on it.
“This is an exemplary project. Despite all the challenges they faced, colleagues still managed to complete it ahead of schedule, reducing disruption to the public, and with no complaints.”
With the ageing gas pipe nestled amongst a host of high pressure gas mains, high-voltage electricity cables and a large water pipe, engineers turned to alternative technologies and working methods to avoid damaging the other utilities. These included using a vacuum extractor, rather than excavators, to suck out the spoil so operatives could work on the pipe.
And when the project had to be halted after some 1200 litres of water was discovered to have leaked into old main, rapid action was taken to help customers whose gas supplies were affected. Colleagues acted quickly to fix the problem, restore gas and get the project back on the road.
Even the global Covid-19 pandemic couldn’t hinder the project’s progress. Engineers quickly adopted new safety practices, donning appropriate PPE, regular handwashing and observing social distancing wherever possible.
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