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Volume 31 Number 1

Winter 2004 Table of Contents http://iwn.iwai.ie/v31i1/

Inland Waterways News

The division is responsible for the larger design works (eg major new harbours) and for studies of existing issues (eg lock leakages or bridge conditions) for Operations. Its remit also includes mechanical engineering (eg hydraulics, pump-outs) and health and safety.

Background

Nigel Russell is an engineer. He qualified from Queen's University Belfast and is a Chartered Engineer and a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers. He did once work on land, for the Dept of the Environment's Roads Service, but has spent twenty years in marine and waterbased environments. That included construction of harbours on the north coast, eg on Rathlin Island, but also inland experience in Design and in Operations for the NI Rivers Agency. He was responsible for a section of the Newry Canal towpath and, more significantly, was involved with the early negotiations concerning the new Lagan Navigation lock at Lisburn City Council's offices on The Island. There, issues of land ownership and of the size and depth of locks had to be tackled, and that gave him his first experience of the environmental and heritage issues associated with reopening waterways. Those issues continue to be important in his job with Waterways Ireland.

Design

The design process is more complex than one might think because the design engineers have to take into account · · · · · · construction: how the harbour (or other facility) will be built use, whether by WI staff or by waterways users maintenance: it has to be possible to carry out regular upkeep decommissioning: what is to be done when it comes to the end of its useful life environmental issues planning issues.

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The approval process for a new harbour development can take two years or more before construction begins at all: the feasibility study, initial consultation and preliminary design work can take some months. Further consultation work and going through planning processes can then take years, with the final design being firmed up at the end of this process. There is other legal work to be carried out at this stage, which may include land purchase and other legal agreements. That work may be done in-house by the Corporate Services division or by external contractors. The Mechanical section sources, procures and maintains Waterways Ireland's plant and vehicle fleet and the powered lock control mechanisms. It is currently carrying out a programme of automation of the locks along the Shannon.

Environment

Environmental issues nowadays have a major influence on all developments, and that is particularly true of waterways, most of which have some sort of special designation. Taking account of environmental concerns does add to time and costs at the design stage; in Northern Ireland, for instance, WI will have to deal with the Northern Ireland Planning Service http://www.planningni.gov.uk/ and perhaps also with the Environment and Heritage Service http://www.ehsni.gov.uk/. Environmental isues do not necessarily affect the costs of construction, although they might (as at Ballyleague) set limits to the times or seasons during which work can be done. The Water Framework Directive will add new requirements. However, most of WI's engineers have worked in some part of government service during their careers and are aware of the environmental legislation and the issues involved when preparing projects. Furthermore, specialist environmental staff are being recruited; interviews for environmental specialists were held in late 2003. Where WI does not have in-house specialists, it uses consultants.

Health and safety

The division is also responsible for health and safety, and has an adviser based at Scarriff who deals with these issues in both jurisdictions. Apart from general health and safety legislation, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) and the republic's Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations (both introduced in 1995) are the main regulations affecting WI's design engineers. Health and safety procedures are updated regularly and problems -- whether they affect employees or the public -- are monitored. WI continually reviews risk assessments on its facilities: at first it used methods developed by OPW (RoI) and the Rivers Agency (NI) but it has now developed its own. Again, safety has to be designed in to every new construction and may add a little to time and cost at design stage. However, WI faces a particular challenge in dealing with older installations. For example, installing ladders in the lock chambers on the Grand Canal would require costly cut-outs as well as making changes to historic structures. There can therefore be a conflict between heritage and safety concerns. In an ideal world Waterways Ireland would like to remove all risk, but in some cases we may have to minimise it and live with some risk. Some solutions are straightforward, eg upgrading the slip resistance of jetties, but others might require major work and could require alterations to heritage structures.

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Project management

Within WI, Operations is the biggest division; it contains the three regional managers and each region has its own in-house workforce. As at Ballyleague, the regions often have the capacity to carry out engineering work themselves. However, if the regions do not have capacity or the specialist skills, Technical Services will engage outside contractors to carry out the work, while it provides project management. It recently advertised for "Civil Engineering Contractors who wish to be included on a Restricted List of Contractors from which tenders will be invited for a number of structural repair contracts."

Aims

In RoI, the National Development Plan projects will keep WI busy for the next few years. They include some major harbours along the Shannon, where Nigel aims to complete the designs for Garrykennedy and Portrunny and forward studies for extensions of the navigation to Dowra and Glasson. Aims for the Barrow Line and the Barrow include the refurbishment of the Bagenalstown and Monasterevan lifting bridges; a tender for the Bagenalstown job was placed recently. But the other major aim in RoI is the completion of the reopening of the Royal, requiring the replacement of the fixed bridges and the improvement of the water supply. In NI, the Lower Bann is being upgraded, with improved access to locks being provided by landing platforms upstream and downstream of each lock. On the Erne, many of the existing jetties and other facilities will be upgraded. All in all, a busy schedule ahead for the Technical Services division. Based on an interview with Nigel Russell in summer of 2003. Facts and figures have been checked and updated.

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