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Learning To Bridge The Gap

28 January 2015

Costain recently gave a group of school children an insight into the intricacies of bridge construction by hosting a couple of site visits to two spanning structures in and around London.

Costain welcomed 21 pupils, together with David Taylor, their design teacher, from Grey Court School in Richmond-Upon-Thames. The first site visit was to the award-winning Walton Bridge in Surrey while the second visit, later in the day, was to the Hammersmith Flyover in London, one of the busiest arterial routes in the capital.

Officially handed over to Surrey County Council in July 2013, the £32.4 million Walton Bridge spans the River Thames between Shepperton and Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. It is the first road bridge in the UK to be wholly designed and fabricated to new European Standards. Hosted by Site Foreman Andy Adaway and Engineer Pete Brown, the students saw first-hand how the single span bridge, which was designed by Atkins, is supported from two arches by hangers.

The pupils then went to see the Hammersmith Flyover which, at its peak, carries around 90,000 vehicles each day over the central Hammersmith gyratory system, a four-lane A4 arterial road linking the west to central London. Costain is currently strengthening and replacing the existing post tensioning strands with a new system.

The students saw for themselves how intricate a spanning structure can be. Hammersmith’s bridge deck is supported on a single central row of piers comprising 16 spans — eleven at a length of 42.7 metres, two at 30.5m, two of 36.6m and one at 22.6m — giving a total length of 626m. The approach ramps at either end increase the total length to 863m.

The event was organised in conjunction with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) as part of its Building Bridges CREST Challenge, which aims to help young people discover their passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematic subjects (STEM).

As part of the Building Bridges CREST Challenge, the students are required to design a bridge while considering a number of client and environmental requirements. Amongst some of the requirements, the structure has to include a single carriageway, two-way bridge joining two towns, and it must cross a river in a way that minimises damage to the river banks and the species that live there, which are very similar to the challenges that civil engineers face on major construction projects.

Tom King, a Graduate Engineer, and Billy Welch, an Apprentice Engineer, acted as the main guides at Hammersmith. Tom, who is planning to visit the school soon to assist with the CREST task, said the quantity and quality of the questions from the students really conveyed their enthusiasm.

“CREST is an excellent opportunity to not only teach engineering practice but to inspire the potential budding engineers of tomorrow. Many at their age have no idea of what an engineer does, so site visits and STEM exercises are invaluable in providing those first steps into an engineer’s world. You never know, some of the pupils may end up providing engineering solutions for Costain,” said Tom.

Tom was commended by the CITB for being a natural teacher and an excellent ambassador for the civil engineering sector.

“Tom’s presentation was pitched just right for this particular group of students. I was particularly impressed by the way Tom used a mixture of simple props, in a fun way, to demonstrate some of the complicated civil engineering challenges at the Hammersmith Flyover project,” said Frederick Titterington, Strategic Partnership Adviser at the CITB.




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