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Tunnelling team hand-digs 20-metre stretch of Edinburgh sewer

Two tunnellers have helped Scottish Water progress a major new sewer beneath Edinburgh by hand-digging 90 tonnes of debris.

(L-R) Gerard Boyce and Thomas Peoples from ASG Tunnelling & Civil Engineering Services (L-R) Gerard Boyce and Thomas Peoples from ASG Tunnelling & Civil Engineering Services

The century-old sewer under Haymarket Terrace was built by Victorian water pioneers in the capital but is now being upgraded to meet the city’s modern needs, and a challenging section required a hands-on approach with the pair – Gerard Boyce and Thomas Peoples – using tools to dig their way through a 20-metre stretch.

Working over a two-week period in a trench beneath Haymarket, one of the busiest transport hubs in the capital, the two men shovelled between 6 and 9 tonnes per day.

The busy junction outside Haymarket Station was hand-tunnelled to avoid damaging a complex web of utility infrastructure such as electricity, gas, telephone lines and broadband.

Scott Fraser, Scottish Water’s corporate affairs regional manager, said: “The original sewer was built by Victorian engineers using old-fashioned methods. Whilst we’re using a range of high-tech solutions to help progress this vital work to upgrade the sewer at Haymarket, we’ve had to use those same basic tunnelling techniques as the Victorians to clear this particular section.

“The £2.5 million work at Haymarket is one of our most high-profile projects due to its busy location and the small, challenging work site. This unique environment means we are using traditional techniques combined with modern technology to efficiently tunnel under a section of road with a large number of vital utilities, which if damaged could impact local residents and businesses.

“The two tunnellers used modern equipment such as gas detectors, laser technology and hydraulic drills to cut the rock face whilst the earth was then shovelled by hand into a traditional cart on rails, which was then lifted by crane back onto the surface.”

Scottish Water employed ASG Tunnelling & Civil Engineering Services to precisely hand-excavate sections of tunnel where tunnel-boring machines are not appropriate for the terrain conditions.

John Doherty, managing director of ASG Tunnelling & Civil Engineering Services, said: “We are one of the few remaining family-run firms that have the knowledge and experience to take on these hand-tunnelling projects.

“I’m extremely proud of hand-tunnellers Gerard and Thomas, who have completed this work in challenging conditions due to the confined space underground and the sheer number of utilities we encountered and had to work around to get the section completed.” 

Author: Robin Hackett, Deputy Editor, WWT and WET News
Topic: Sewer Networks
Tags: Scottish Water , tunnelling , infrastructure , sewers

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