Update: Littlehampton Sea Defences, £400,000 Crane Bridge arrives

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane Bridge 2The massive £400,000 Crane Bridge is currently being installed in Pier Road.

This enormous structure will carry the crane along Pier Road as it drives in each pile.

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane Bridge 1Environment Agency’s sea defence contractor VolkerStevin appeared to have overcome, what has so far proved the greatest engineering challenge in the construction of  Littlehampton’s Sea Defences by creating this £400,000 crane bridge. You can read more about why the Crane Bridge has been needed here.

The Bridge has been especially created to carry the weight of the Crane along Pier Road while keeping weight off Pier Road by straddling the road and sitting on the piling structures.

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane Bridge 8Here you can see the new crane bridge in position and being worked on to get it ready.

Once finished the crane will sit on this platform and will work it’s way along Pier Road.

Crane in Pier RoadOnce ready, this crane will be driven onto the Crane Bridge where it will begin the piling works in Pier Road. It’s a challenging job as once each ‘gateway of piles’ are driven in their final home in the river bed, the bridge will then have to be moved forward onto to these piles to begin on the next batch.

Piling gateThis is the ‘piling gate’ which the piles are loaded into before being driven into the ground.

Sea Defence construction Arun Parade 8Piles being driven into the ground, which have been loaded into the piling gate.

As you can see, it’s not an easy, or a quick task and when you see the sheer logistical problems you get an idea as why the project has been delayed so much.

Look and Sea!Littlehampton’s Look and Sea! Centre’s iconic viewpoint framed by the new Crane bridge.

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane Bridge 6Work underway today (Wednesday, 19th February 2014) on installing the new crane bridge.

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane Bridge 3The sheer size of this new crane bridge has to been seen in the ‘flesh’ to understand how vast it is. It will be an amazing sight to see the Crane on top of this bridge, and if Littlehampton ever needed a new visitor attraction, then this is it.

VolkerStevin have indicated that they expect Piling works to be completed in Pier Road by May 2014. Only once the piling has been completed can the works begin on the back filling and concreting necessary to create the actual ‘wall’ and capping that will sit both behind and above the piles.

It’s a long, challenging difficult engineering process.

Littlehampton Sea Defence Piling worksMeanwhile piling work continues at the harbour entrance. If you pop up there you can great views of what’s happening as you can in Pier Road.

Come and witness history being made.

Latest update on Littlehampton’s Sea Defences. Environment Agency answers your questions.

Earlier this week, I caught up with Andrew Walker from the Environment Agency and asked him if the Environment Agency would provide a detailed update that I could share with readers of the Pier Road Diaries.

Despite being over-run with weather and dealing with constant and dangerous flooding problems, Andrew and his team have found the time to provide this useful update for Littlehampton’s residents and business owners.

When will the Works now be completed?

The works in Pier Road and Arun Parade are currently forecast to be completed in autumn 2014.

2.    What caused this delay?

There are four main reasons for the delay we are currently experiencing:

1.    Adverse weather, including; a 30 year extreme high tide event, multiple days of gale force winds and largest amount of December rainfall in the Arun catchment since 1934. The wettest January on record.

2.    Multiple crane and crane rig breakdowns, as well as other technical issues with mechanical plant.

3.    A number of complex and very important safety issues regarding locating the crane on the existing riverside area (temporary works).

4.    The drawings for Arun Parade and Pier Road have recently been finalised, this has led to some increases in the amount of time required on site.

 

3.    Why didn’t you know about these safety issues before the start of the works?

Our original method of works was to stand the cranes in Arun Parade and Pier Road on standard crane mats. Following on from a detailed analysis of the existing structures it became evident that there was a significant risk of a catastrophic slip circle failure of the existing structure. This has led to a redesign of the structures which support the cranes.

4.    Why didn’t you factor weather delays into your programme?

We did factor in typical winter weather into our construction programme. To date, this winter’s weather has been exceptional.

We have experienced nearly 4 month’s rain in 2 weeks in December. January was the wettest on record and February is forecast to continue experiencing further low pressure systems. More importantly, we have experienced a larger than average number of gale force wind events throughout December and January.

When average wind speeds increase above 13m/s, crane operations on site are suspended for safety reasons. Using the crane to drive the steel sheet piles is a critical item of work on site. This is why high wind speeds can have a negative impact on the construction works.

 5.    What are you doing about this delay?

We have already started doing some work at the weekends, in order to try and minimise the impacts. We are continuing to work with Arun District Council Environmental Health team to explore the opportunities to reduce the construction programme by working at weekends.

We are looking for every opportunity to maximise efficiency to start to regain lost time. For example, we will continue to explore the opportunities for weekend working, we will look to increase site construction hours as the days get longer, we will advertise in the local press that Pier Road remains open for business, we will change fencing alignments wherever possible to create more room on footpaths and we will attempt to reopen sections of both road as soon as works are completed.

6.    How do we know that the delays won’t increase further?

We are working with the best available information that we have at the current time. There is the potential for our forecast construction time on site to increase or decrease, depending on a number factors. We will always keep you updated on our scheduled construction programme.

7.    What is Arun Parade/Pier Road going to look like through the summer?

The piling works will be complete and the large cranes will be off site. There will be on-going construction works of the concrete capping beam, retaining walls and public realm enhancements.

8.    What are the effects of the delay? Where will they be felt?

The increase in the construction time means that Pier Road and Arun Parade will be closed through the summer. The project board agreed that this approach was preferable to closing down the site and remobilising after summer.

9.    Will the road still be closed throughout the summer?

Pier Road and Arun Parade will remain closed to vehicular traffic over the summer (dependent on approval from the Highways Authority). We will do everything we can to minimise the impacts of the road closures.

 Where possible we will undertake a staggered reopening when sections of the work are completed.

If we are able to we will realign the site perimeter fencing in places, in order to improve pedestrian access to the businesses on Pier Road and Arun Parade.

10.  What is being done to restore public confidence in visiting Littlehampton?

We will continue to publicise that Pier Road and Arun Parade are open to visitors through various local media outlets. We welcome any ideas which you may have regarding publicising businesses in the local area.

11.  Can’t you just close the works and start again at the end of the summer?

The decision was taken by the project board that in order to minimise disruption to residents, businesses and visitors, that site works will continue through the summer months. There was concern that closing the site, leaving the area half constructed, and returning later in the year would result in more disruption for local people.

This option has been assessed by the project team and discounted due to the following reasons;

·         The piling is scheduled to be completed before the start of the summer, whilst the landscaping works would only be partially completed;

·         There would be addition temporary works require making the site safe for the public (temporary handrail, surfacing), these works would be abortive and add to the project costs;

·         Continuing through the summer brings opportunities to increase productivity  due to increased daylight hours and better weather;

·         Compensation will potentially cost more during the summer, but there are opportunities to minimise these costs by further advertising, and opening up completed sections.

My thanks to Andrew and the Project Team at the Environment Agency for taking the time out to update the Pier Road Diaries Readers.

To keep up with all the latest from Pier Road Diaries, make sure you sign up for regular updates by entering your email address in the top right hand corner of this page.

You can also follow Pier Road on Twitter @Pier_road


The Sea Defences are delayed because: “We don’t have enough Welders…”

One of a number of reasons given by the contractor for the ongoing delay in the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences is – the lack of Welders.

With a £14 million sea defence contract you’d imagine that with that sort of budget, you could afford to hire a few decent welders.

Apparently not, it seems as a lack of welders is being blamed as one of the reasons for the ongoing delays in completion of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences.

This and the more worrying fact that VolkerStevin (and/or consulting engineers associated with the project) have managed to seriously underestimate the strength of Pier Road to take their crane.

It appears that the original surveys of Pier Road were fundamentally flawed and where they originally concluded that the road was strong enough to stand the crane on ‘crane mats’,  they’ve now subsequently discovered that the road isn’t strong enough to do this.

And if they had gone ahead with their original plan, they explained this would potentially lead to: ” a catastrophic slip circle failure of the existing structure.”

Roughly translated –  Pier Road could potentially slide into the River Arun.

Not exactly encouraging confidence.

However the good news is that Dutch engineering giant VolkerStevin have now figured out a way of getting themselves quite literally out of a hole by building a specially adapted ‘crane bridge’ on which to sit their crane during the piling works.

And the costs of this unexpected creation – a staggering £400,00.

So, how’s work going on building this bridge?

In a scene reminiscent  of something from ‘Death of a Salesman‘, I watched and listened as VolkerStevin’s Site Manager explained that their welders had walked off the job. ‘I’m not running a labour camp,’ he explained to the astonished meeting. ‘We can’t just keep them there,’ he said exasperated.

And why did they walk off the job?

“They weren’t happy with the conditions…”

Further revelations in response to questions from Pier Road Traders revealed that VolkerStevin have only, and this is an approximation, 20 people actually working onsite.

Remember we’re talking a budget of £14 million here. Actually £14m plus the £400k overspend as someone got their calculations seriously wrong.

It was then brought to their attention that all of these welding woes could have been avoided had VolkerStevin employed Littlehampton’s own reliable  Littlehampton Welding company, which enjoys an enviable reputation worldwide.

And it just so happens this superb company’s HQ is located just a few steps from VolkerStevin’s site office in Littlehampton harbour.

There’s no explanation as to why Littlehampton Welding weren’t used, but I find it unacceptable that with £14 million being spent on this project, a local Littlehampton company were not used and we’re left at the mercy of unhappy welders who simply walk off site.

So, at the moment, there’s no piling work being undertaken in Pier Road as we’re still waiting for this bridge to be built.

As you’d expect VolkerStevin brochure is full of the sort of corporate bullshit you’d expect from big companies like these.

Announcing on the front page of their website  – ‘clever engineering’. (but apparently not clever enough to spot what is obvious to even the seagulls that Pier Road has an appalling road surface and has been crumbling away for years – something that the traders from Pier Road highlighted to their ‘clever engineers’ when we met during the consultation process.

“VolkerStevin provides complex engineering solutions across a wide range of sectors including civil engineering, land remediation and regeneration, water and marine infrastructure and flood and coastal protection.”

Conveniently on page 7 of the VolkerStevin brochure they declare: ‘SET US A CHALLENGE’

Here’s one guys – find a welding company in Littlehampton – clue – they’re right next to your site offices.

You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up.

This may actually beat’s Arun District Councillor’s Paul Dendle’s hilarious declaration via Twitter, where he ‘announced there were no material delays with the scheme and we’d be finished on target in July.

This when the Project team had already announced they were four weeks behind, and this announcement came six weeks prior to Councillor Dendle’s announcement….

Incidentally, despite, as I’ve been led to believe being invited to this meeting, Councillor Dendle didn’t attend and neither were apologies or any explanation offered. This from Arun District Council’s Flood Defence Chief.

I wonder if he’s any good at welding?

 

Remember to Follow Pier Road Diaries on twitter – @Pier_Road

Make sure you sign up for regular blog updates – just enter your email address on the top right hand corner.