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LM joins the UK’s Equality and Inclusivity top tier

LM, the joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Ltd – two of the UK’s leading construction and engineering companies - has been listed in the top 50 of the UK’s most inclusive and diverse employers. 

Joining some of the country’s top businesses in the Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers List, LM has demonstrated to a panel of independent judges that it applies inclusivity and diversity across its staff, ensuring that everyone is treated equally regardless of age, race, faith, disability, gender, LGBT or religion. 

From its base in Birmingham, LM is delivering the northern section of HS2's Phase One enabling works, which is the new high speed railway being built between London the West Midlands.

As well as showcasing organisations that are already performing at a high standard in relation to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, the Inclusive Top 50 UK Employers List helps organisations to make the changes that would allow them to become a more inclusive employer. 

Commenting on the listing, LM project director Richard Kirkham said:

“As a relatively new joint venture, I’m delighted that our efforts to create a team that’s committed to equality, diversity and inclusion have been recognised.  We’re delivering the advance works programme for HS2 in the West Midlands – one of the UK’s most diverse regions - and we’re dedicated to ensuring that our business treats everyone equally, and offers opportunities to applicants regardless of their backgrounds.” 

Naheem Ahmed, LM’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) representative, said:

“Over the past two years, EDI has moved from being a common thread across our organisation to part of our DNA – for LM, EDI is considered ‘business as usual’.  Working with our procurement teams we have ensured EDI training and support is present in our offices and on site, we ensure everyone is supported and has a voice.

“We’ve trained our workforce in Fairness, Inclusion and Respect, which means everyone exhibits the right behaviours, resulting in a culture of inclusion and respect. Being recognised as one of the UK’s top employers in this area is an honour, but will drive us forward to perform even better!”

Mark Lomas, HS2’s Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) said:

“At HS2, we want to make sure the sector is equipped and ready to deliver on the diverse needs of HS2 as well as future projects. To do this, we need equality for those already working in the infrastructure industry, more diversity in those we aim to attract, and working practices need to change to be truly inclusive.

“Through our inclusive procurement model we aim to remove barriers and support our supply chain to focus on their EDI practices. It’s fantastic that LM, an HS2 Tier One Enabling Works Contractor, has been recognised as one of the best employers when it comes to diversity, equality and inclusion.”

Birmingham engineer has her cake and eats it by winning global competition

Using roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits to explain how demolition materials can be recycled has won a West Midlands civil engineer first place at the global final of Pitch 200, an international competition held by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Imogen Graves, assistant design manager at LM (a joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Ltd, delivering advance works for HS2 in the West Midlands), beat the 12 other finalists at the global final, held at ICE’s London headquarters on Monday evening. The event was hosted by TV presenter Rob Bell and included contestants from across the UK, as well as the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Bangladesh and Australia. Her presentation: ‘Demolition: what a load of rubbish!’ which she has used to engage school children in civil engineering, explored the importance of thinking about the reuse and recycling of construction materials.

Using two models, made of roly-poly cakes and rich tea biscuits, Imogen clearly demonstrated the difference between a more traditional “smashing” method of demolition, whereby materials become contaminated and are unable to be reused, compared to the process when carried out with a demolition plan which can, in some cases, allow for up to 90% of materials to be recycled.

As part of ICE’s bicentenary celebrations, Pitch 200 issued engineers the challenge of explaining an engineering concept to the public in an engaging and creative way in only 200 seconds. Contestants were encouraged to use props, presentations and anything their imaginations could conjure.

Pitch 200 winner Imogen Graves, Design Engineer, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to have won. My competition was strong, the other finalists had very impressive pitches. It feels amazing to be recognised for something that I’m extremely proud of, on a topic that is really important.  Working on a big project like HS2, a lot of my job is communicating complex schemes to non-engineers, though usually in a less messy fashion! This pitch is one I use when engaging with school children, encouraging them to think about civil engineering as a future career. I look forward to continuing to communicate ideas and concepts about our industry as ICE Ambassador next year.”

Chair of the judging panel, Sir Peter Bazalgette, ITV Chair and great-great-grandson of engineer and past ICE President Sir Joseph Bazalgette, said:

“The 13 finalists were extraordinarily impressive, passionate, innovative, articulate, and very topical about some of the challenges facing the world. It is great to see such talent coming through for the civil engineering we will all rely on in the future.

“Imogen presented a cutting-edge approach to waste reduction in demolition, and if that sounds dry, her presentation was anything but. A really talented civil engineer.

ICE Immediate Past President Professor Lord Robert Mair said:

“Although civil engineering directly transforms people’s lives, this isn’t always immediately obvious to the public. Pitch 200 has challenged our members to explain civil engineering in a clear and creative way to help highlight the importance of our industry.  Imogen gave a highly imaginative and hugely engaging presentation amid a tough field of talented and skilled competitors. I congratulate her on very well-deserved win and wish her the best of luck as ICE Ambassador in 2019 and a fruitful career beyond.”

Judging the pitches alongside Sir Peter Bazalgette were Stephen Metcalfe MP, HM Government Envoy for Year of Engineering; Dr Marty Jopson, Inventor and Reporter for the BBC's The ONE Show; and Ayo Sokale ICE President’s Future Leader 2017/18. In their comments, the judges said Imogen came across as witty and engaging and was certainly Ambassador material. They commended her extremely well-presented pitch, which clearly connected engineering concepts with wider society.

Imogen won £1000 and will be an ICE Ambassador in 2019, using her communication skills to improve the understanding of the general public that civil engineers transform their lives.

Akshay Budhihal Ashokkuma from TU Delft in the Netherlands, representing Europe, was awarded second place. He introduced the audience to the concept of ‘Plastic Roads’, whereby plastic waste is used to create a composite material which can replace concrete in the construction of roads. The judges found Akshay to be extremely articulate and confident in his presentation. They complemented his ability to present a complete idea in 200 seconds, which was particularly topical in today’s society.

Third place was awarded to Catriona Salvini from Heriot-Watt University, representing the Scotland region. Her Great ICE Bake-off style presentation used the analogy of baking Rocky Road to the creation of concrete and discussed the possibility of using supplementary materials to improve sustainability. The judges said her presentation was the “most brilliant analogy of the evening”. They liked the ecological approach of her presentation and were impressed by her knowledge about concrete structures and the longevity of their use.

HS2 to support 15,000 jobs by 2020

As the programme moves to construction, the number of roles supported by HS2 is forecast to reach 15,000.

•Over 7,000 roles already supported by the project

•Over 2,000 business have already won work with HS2

•Over 100 apprentices already working on the project, with 2,000 expected over its lifetime

•30,000 jobs supported by HS2 at peak construction

A whole generation of engineers, designers, architects and geologists will benefit from the construction of the new high speed railway as the project gears up to support 30,000 jobs and create opportunities for British businesses to upskill their workforce.

Today HS2 Ltd sets out its programme of skills, employment and education interventions that will ensure the UK not only has the skills to deliver the HS2 project, but to become a worldwide leader in high speed rail.

Over 7,000 roles are already supported by the project. With construction starting next year, many more jobs around the country will help build a skills base to export around the world.

Mark Thurston, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, said: “Our skills strategy, launched today, shows how we will create a sustainable pipeline of jobs and skills for companies across the whole country, which boost regional economies and help Britain compete internationally.

“Our programme will tackle the skills challenges faced by the wider transport infrastructure sector, and ensure the UK has the best skills to deliver HS2 as well as major infrastructure projects in the future.”

HS2 Minister, Nusrat Ghani MP, said: “HS2 will provide the backbone of our future rail network and is already driving jobs and economic growth across the country. HS2 already supports over 7,000 jobs, forecast to reach around 15,000 by 2020, and is building the talented workforce of the future that this transformative project needs.

“The ambitious programme of skills, employment and education set out today will see the economic benefits of HS2 fully realised across the UK, boosting productivity and sharing prosperity across the country.”

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, said: “Apprenticeships offer incredible opportunities for young people. Everyone studying an apprenticeship with HS2 will be able to look back and say they played a role creating our country’s future. Not only that, the apprentices are also learning the skills that future employers are looking for, that’s what apprenticeships are all about.

“HS2 is creating 2,000 apprenticeships and is a fantastic example of a national project that is providing opportunities for everyone, whatever their background and wherever they come from. I look forward to meeting some of the apprentices that have been a part of making it happen.”

New initiatives will be introduced over the next 12 months to stimulate interest in STEM subjects and encourage more young people into transport infrastructure related careers. Opportunities will be opened up through a new Job Brokerage Service to help people access the jobs created by the HS2 supply chain, and a new Secondary Education Engagement Programme will inspire the next generation to enter transport infrastructure careers.

Through HS2 contracts, there are already hundreds of businesses creating opportunities for their workforce. Explore Manufacturing, part of the Laing O’Rourke group, has won a contract with LM joint venture to supply major bridges as part of the early works on Phase One of the project.

The modular components will be manufactured at Explore Industrial Park in Workshop, North Nottinghamshire, and then brought to site in the West Midlands for assembly. The company recruits a minimum of 4 apprentices each year and when the HS2 related work commences in the factory it will create 35 new jobs.

Alan Clucas, Director of Explore Manufacturing, said: “We are proud to be working on the biggest rail infrastructure programmes in the country. For Explore Manufacturing it means a significant contribution in digital design and high quality off site manufacturing, which shortens time needed on site, and has big benefits in safety, efficiency and programme costs.”

Richard Kirkham, LM Project Director, said: “By working on the HS2 project, and linking to the National College for High Speed Rail with 4 apprenticeships, as well as other schools and college liaison across the region, we’re giving local people the opportunity to gain world class skills and knowledge, create a sustainable pipeline of jobs, and be in a great position to win future work with large-scale infrastructure projects.”

LM announces new Commercial Leader appointment

9 July 2018

LM, the joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Limited, has announced the appointment of Garry O’Dwyer as its new Commercial Leader.

LM is currently delivering the enabling works programme for the northernmost section of HS2 Phase One, which covers the Greater West Midlands, and represents approximately 80km of the new high-speed line’s route.

Garry will be responsible for leading all strategic commercial aspects of LM’s business operations, and will be based at LM’s offices in Birmingham’s business district. He takes over from Andrew King, who has moved within Laing O’Rourke to a new role in Australia.

Garry has an outstanding track record of success in major infrastructure projects, with extensive experience across the London 2012 Olympic Games and Crossrail projects, as well as supporting Laing O’Rourke’s Design for Manufacture & Assembly (DfMA) strategy and offsite solutions business.

“This is the most exciting infrastructure project in the country and it’s an honour to be leading the commercial team for LM,” said Garry. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to play a major role in a project that’ll make a substantial improvement to the UK transport network. Having grown up in the local area and seen at first hand the wider economic benefits that major infrastructure projects can create for communities I’m delighted to be supporting the delivery of HS2 in the West Midlands and the benefits it will bring to the region.”

LM cyclists’ 140 mile challenge raises money for Hearts & Minds

A team of 17 cyclists from LM – a Birmingham based joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Ltd – has completed a gruelling 140 mile cycle ride from London’s Euston station to Birmingham Curzon Street, to raise money for charity.

‘Hearts and Minds’ is a fundraising initiative established by Laing O’Rourke to support both physical and mental wellbeing, and as part of mental health awareness week, staff took part in a number of events to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and Mind. Both partner companies took part in the ride, with the 17 engineers, including deputy project director Rob Gray, crossing the finish line together just 30 hours after starting.

“Although most of us are regular cyclists, we knew the route would be hard, but by far the most challenging part was the hilly section around Berkhamsted - a few of us definitely struggled at times”, said Rob.  “Nevertheless, we all made it, and there’s great satisfaction in doing something really worthwhile like this to help others.” 

Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Limited are two of the UK’s leading engineering and construction companies.  The joint venture is helping to deliver HS2 – the UK’s new high speed railway. It is responsible for enabling works within the Greater West Midlands, along the phase one route.

For further media information regarding LM, contact: Jeremy de Souza, Communications Leader.  Tel: 07770 – 830085 or email:

Donations can be made at:

Images of the cycle team are available on request.

Happy ending for Birmingham dog rescue

Date: 9 April 2018

A delightful three year old dog that had been abandoned during the height of the snowy weather, has been saved, thanks to quick work by LM’s security team and Birmingham City Council’s dog wardens.

During a check of vacant business premises in Washwood Heath, a senior security manager from LM – a joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Ltd, delivering the enabling works for HS2 in the West Midlands – spotted a three year old Lurcher that had been abandoned.  Despite his best endeavours, the frightened and hungry animal evaded capture.  

With the help of Birmingham City Council’s dog wardens, it was caught and checked over.  Suffering only from cold and a lack of nourishment, Hans – as he has become known – has been nursed back to health at the Council’s stray dog kennels at Birmingham Dog’s Home, and will shortly be placed with a new owner.

“The poor dog had been abandoned on a large vacant factory site, with no food or shelter, during one of the coldest periods Birmingham has experienced in years,” said LM Security Manager Nick Jones. “We knew we needed to act quickly to help it.  Kelly and Kerrie from Birmingham’s Dog Warden team were amazing – they answered our call for help and quickly ensured he was caught.”

Experts from the Birmingham Dogs Home near Solihull have nursed Hans back to full health again, building up his strength and confidence amongst humans and other dogs.  

“His progress has been excellent and it’s been lovely to see how quickly he’s regained his character,” said Vikki Allwood, Senior Animal Health and Welfare Officer, from Birmingham City Council.

“Hans has already found a new owner through Birmingham Dogs Home, and will be off very soon to enjoy a new life.  We’re delighted to have a happy ending to this dog’s tale!”


Best Foot Forward campaign kicks off in Birmingham

Date: 31/01/18

A new campaign to help unemployed people prepare for job interviews has been launched in Birmingham.

Best Foot Forward is the brainchild of the Suited for Success charity, which offers free high quality interview clothes and coaching support to unemployed men and women returning to employment.  Good quality shoes, especially men’s, are in particularly short supply, and the new campaign is to seek donations from businesses and individuals who can help.

Patricia White, Suited for Success Managing Director said, “First impressions are vital when it comes to a job interview. Research shows that it takes a potential employer just ‘nine seconds’ to make up their mind about an applicant. As we celebrate our first-year anniversary this week, we're delighted to have provided many interview suits for over 350 unemployed people, but we’re finding quality shoes in short supply.  ‘Best Foot Forward’ is a call for help to those who can spare a pair or two - they could literally change someone’s life with their donation.”

LM Project Director Richard Kirkham said, “It’s an honour to help Suited for Success with this initiative.  As a new business in Birmingham, we’re still finding our feet in the community, but we recognise the scale of the challenges that face those looking for a new job.  We’ve asked our 140-strong workforce to donate whatever they can, and call on businesses across the city to support this very worthy campaign. An unwanted pair of shoes could be the first step along the road to a new career”.

Since being introduced to the charity, LM is exploring further support including interview coaching, mentoring programmes, work experience, and training workshops.

Suited for Success is based in Ladywood, Birmingham. It provides free high quality interview clothes, along with styling and interview preparation skills for unemployed men and women who have a confirmed job interview. Gently worn suits and smart workwear are typically donated by professional men and women in corporate companies, law firms, banks, offices and businesses across the city.  Unemployed men and women are referred to their centre from a variety of frontline agencies supporting people experiencing significant barriers to unemployment. These include: long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, care leavers, recovering addicts, homeless people, single parents and ex-servicemen.

LM is a joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J Murphy & Sons Limited, two of the UK’s leading engineering and construction companies.  The joint venture is helping to deliver HS2 – the UK’s new high speed railway. It is responsible for enabling works within the Greater West Midlands, along the phase one route.

For further media information regarding LM, contact: Jeremy de Souza, Communications Leader.  Tel: 07770 – 830085 or email:

Images are available on request.

For further information regarding Suited for Success:


Big Birmingham Sleepout – LM raises over £3500

27 Nov 2017

A hardy group from the LM JV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Limited joint venture) has raised over £3500, taking part in the Big Birmingham Sleep Out 2017 this weekend.

On one of the coldest night of the year so far, the 18 intrepid LM souls, braved the elements to take part in the charity fundraiser, raising money for Birmingham’s St Basils charity. They joined around 800 fellow fundraisers sleeping rough for the night in the grounds of Birmingham Cathedral in the heart of the city.

Home for almost everyone for the night was a temporary cardboard village built by each person and group, with an astonishing variety of designs and structural concepts on display. At midnight, a brief service was held in the Cathedral to thank everyone taking part, including a brief address by Birmingham’s mayor, Andy Street.

“This is the biggest event of the year for St Basils, and I’m proud of everyone in the team for taking part,” said Naheem Ahmed, LM’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion leader. “From first-hand experience, I know how hard being alone and unsupported can be, and the cold city streets are no place for vulnerable people. St Basils helps to give those in need a place to call a temporary home, but more importantly, equip them with the skills and resources to rebuild their lives."


Unprecedented conservation project starts in Warwickshire

7 August 2017

As part of preparations for Britain’s new high speed railway, HS2 (High Speed Two) Ltd is starting to create its first new wildlife habitats anywhere along the line of route.

Work at the Finham Brook site in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, starts this month and includes the creation of 6 new ponds as well as new woodlands featuring over 6,200 trees and shrubs. It’s expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The new habitats will support local wildlife species ranging from birds to great crested newts. They are part of an unprecedented conservation project, which will see a green corridor of connected wildlife habitats created alongside the railway, including up to 7 million new trees and shrubs, as well as wetland, ponds, heathland and meadow.

Anthony Coumbe, HS2 Ltd’s Head of Environment for this region said “The new habitats at Finham Brook will be the first of many to come between London and the West Midlands. They will help us to care for the local environment and serve as a new home to wildlife affected by the future development of the railway.

“At Finham Brook, we’re creating a bigger and better habitat than local species such as great crested newts currently have.  We’ll relocate newts to the habitat next year, once it has become properly established, while other wildlife will start to use the area naturally over time.  Ultimately, we’re aiming to create a railway that works for nature as well as passengers, with a green corridor of connected habitats running through the spine of the country”

Richard Kirkham, project director for LM, enabling works contractor for the northern section of HS2 phase 1, said, ”Our experts carried out extensive ecological studies along the route, and we’re confident these new habitats will become a welcoming home to the wildlife.”  

Various preparatory works for the first phase of HS2, from London to the West Midlands, are currently underway, ranging from nature conservation activity to archaeology investigations. Main construction work is set to start in 2018/19 following detailed design work. 

Notes to editors:

The works at Finham Brook are being delivered by LM – a joint venture between Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons. LM is HS2 Ltd’s enabling works contractor for the northern section of the phase one route.


LM joint venture unveiled as sponsor for digital construction technology drive

29 March 2017

LM, a joint venture of Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy and Sons Ltd, delivering the enabling works aligned to the West Midlands route for the HS2 high speed rail project, has joined with the West Midlands Combined Authority to back a cross-region training framework intended to drive essential supply chain skills needed to work on 21st century infrastructure projects.

BIMwm is a specialist training framework of high-tech engineers and consultants to equip the regions manufacturers and subcontractors with advanced construction technology and Building Information Modelling (BIM) skills needed to win work on major projects such as HS2.

Through BIM, the UK construction industry is undergoing its very own digital revolution. BIM is a universal way of working enabling engineers and construction experts to use intelligent 3D virtual models and digital construction methods to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage infrastructure projects and building works.

BIMwm will provide a platform for regional SMEs to become tech-driven and tech-enabled suppliers, providing a framework to coach new digital construction skills and its proficient use to promote and showcase manufactured materials, component assemblies and product designs to potential new clients including rail transportation chiefs, designers, engineers and buyers. 

Senior Supply Chain & Procurement Lead of LM joint venture, Sean O’Brien, said: "We are delighted to be backing this dedicated training framework in partnership with the West Midlands Combined Authority. “At LM JV, we recognise the opportunities that digital design and offsite manufacturing presents and have seen the advantages of fully integrating BIM into our approach when working with every aspect of the construction supply chain. By sponsoring BIMwm, LM JV is supporting the WMCA’s vision for BIM adoption across the SME community. We hope that as many of the region’s businesses as possible will take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to ensure that they are up to date with the latest technological advances, giving them a real business advantage going forward.”

BIMwm imparts every aspect of BIM knowledge from basic people development skills for beginners through to advanced 3D design technology, digital model hosting, BIM object & data creation services. 

Steve Massey, Supply Chain Development Manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority said: "The West Midlands has a world-class manufacturing base and by sponsoring our BIMwm framework, LM JV are helping SMEs from across the region to use new technology and have the right skills in place to make our region's supply chain stronger and more competitive. “We’re delighted to have a large and successful partner such as LM JV helping the regions SME’s to adopt BIM and access new clients through the digital marketing of their products and components.”

Through this pioneering framework, we are offering practical and affordable support to help SMEs develop specialist and essential work-winning skills.”

The launch of the BIMwm framework coincides with the opening of a cloud -based virtual BIM suite, a specialist mobile technology suite, kitted out with the latest virtual engineering software to coach digital construction skills and capabilities needed to build and run major procurement projects. The mobile facility, known as the LM JV BIM Technologies suite will host a series of special ‘BIM Awareness webinars, workshops’ and ‘Meet the Designer sessions’ themed around the design and build requirements for real-life projects including those aligned to rail transportation such as new stations, freight terminals, metroline expansions, traffic management, commercial developments and new housing schemes.

To find out more about the BIMwm framework or to attend forthcoming BIM Awareness Workshops – visit the West Midlands Combined Authority website or contact the BIMwm team by e-mailing


HS2 names enabling works contractors

16 November 2016

LM, the joint venture between Laing O’Rourke and Murphy, has been named as one of three contractors for HS2’s enabling works. 

LM, along with Fusion JV and CS JV, will deliver essential early works – including archaeology, site clearance and setting up construction compounds – ahead of the start of the main civil engineering work.

The £900m enabling works contracts cover the whole of Phase One, from London to Birmingham and the connection to the West Coast Main line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with work due to begin next spring.

The following joint ventures will be appointed:

  • Area South - CS JV (Costain Group Plc and Skanska Construction UK Limited)
  • Area Central – Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure Ltd BAM Nuttall Limited and Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Limited)
  • Area North - LM JV (Laing O’Rourke Construction Limited and J. Murphy & Sons Limited) -  covering the section from Birmingham Interchange north to Curzon Street and the connection to the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre.

The contractors will also deliver a range of activities including utility diversions, ecology surveys, demolition, ground remediation, watercourse activities, highways realignments, monitoring and instrumentation, structural reinforcements and drainage work.

Jim Crawford, HS2 Ltd managing director – construction, said: “Over the coming years, our new partners will deliver the essential preparatory work we need to deliver the main construction programme on time and on budget, as well as creating jobs and training opportunities for thousands of people all along the route from London to the West Midlands and across our UK-wide supply chain.”

Paul Sheffield, managing director, Engineering Enterprise, Laing O’Rourke, said: “It is a privilege to have been selected with Murphy to begin work that will lead to the creation of the UK’s new high speed line. Projects like this are great news for the UK’s economy and its transport links. They also mean the creation of new jobs and opportunities for suppliers right across the country. We’re delighted with the news, and keen to get started.”    

Steve Hollingshead, CEO of Murphy, said: “Over the past year, we’ve established a strong and close partnership with Laing O’Rourke. We’re ready to hit the ground running having engaged with a supply chain that’s looking forward to working on the project. Together we will work with HS2 Ltd, key stakeholders and local communities along the route to make sure we carry out this project in a structured and sensitive way.”


Murphy reaches end of the tunnel – right under London  

11 October 2016

LFM joint venture member J. Murphy & Sons Limited (Murphy) has broken through under London, to complete a 3km tunnel. This breakthrough in east London is the culmination of almost two years’ work underground to create a 2.85-metre wide tunnel running under the tube network, train lines, the river Thames and London’s busy roads.

UK Power Networks have invested £27 million to create a tunnel that will house its electricity superhighway, carrying an extra 400 megawatts of electricity, with enough capacity to deliver power to 130,000 homes. The tunnel, lying 23 to 30 metres below ground, links substations from south-east of the Thames across to east London.

Murphy broke through to the final tunnel reception chamber in Tower Hamlets in east London, right on target – having allowed for a variance of just 50 millimetres from the start of the tunnel in Southwark, south-east London. The Murphy team selected the company-owned Lovat tunnel boring machine ‘Fionnuala’, a 91-tonne machine built to Murphy’s specifications.  Fionnuala’s components were first lowered into the tunnel chamber in south-east London in August 2014 in three main sections, taking two weeks to build below ground and has since progressed at a highly impressive rate of 23 metres per day, with up to 3bar external water pressure.

The skilled Murphy teams of engineers, surveyors, project manager and operatives monitored the ground conditions constantly to work safely and as efficiently as possible with the various terrains found beneath London, each of which required different mining parameters – ranging from heavy London Blue Clay, the Lambeth group of silty clay, fine silts and gravels, Thanet Sands, through to chalk-containing flints at the deepest levels.

They subsequently spent two weeks taking Fionnuala apart onto 70m of back-up sledges, guiding all the equipment through a custom-sized junction chamber in Tower Hamlets before lifting her out of a shaft using a 350 tonne mobile crane.

The tunnel connects substations north and south of the River Thames to meet London’s demand for electricity. By choosing to tunnel from one substation to the other, Londoners avoided months of disruptive roadworks for cable installation, upgrades or repairs.

Darren Ramsay, from Murphy said: “I am so proud of the work of our team, spending two years underneath London to help ensure reliable power supplies in the capital, working collaboratively with our client UK Power Networks. Each milestone was successfully negotiated, from the challenges of tunnelling underneath the River Thames, the Jubilee tube line and train tracks running into London Bridge. The final breakthrough in Tower Hamlets has been achieved with minimal disruption to Londoners and the environment. This breakthrough was testament to the work of our team, successfully achieving break-through despite difficult ground conditions without deviating from the original tunnel line - impressive given the 3km distance and given that each end of the tunnel was bored nearly two years apart.”

Nirmal Kotecha, director of capital programme and procurement at UK Power Networks, said: “London’s power needs are increasing all the time and we are constantly investing in new infrastructure to ensure we maintain reliable electricity supplies. This essential project will increase the resilience of electricity supplies for residents and businesses for years to come. By working deep underground with the Murphy specialist team, we were able to avoid digging up roads along the entire route, helping keep the impact of this major project to a minimum.”

The tunnel will now be lined with hundreds of cable support brackets to carry 132,000 volt electricity cables, connecting substations between south-east London, the City and east London. Work to fit out the new tunnel will start in July and last seven months. The new cables are due to go live next summer.

Project Facts:

  • The work involved over 290,000 man hours – all achieved without any lost injury time, a result of the Murphy safety culture development programme and “Never Harm” ethos
  • 2,965m tunnel comprises of 17,790 individual segment linings weighing 750kg
  • Over 77,000 tonnes of excavated material have been transported from site
  • 99.7 % of surplus material removed from site has been recycled
  • Over 2,600 tonnes of cementicous grout have been injected behind tunnel linings
  • 71,200 bolts have been inserted to build the tunnel linings
  • Over 6,000 train journeys within the tunnel, a journey taking up to 30 minutes by the tail-end of the project
  • The project involved over 30,000 crane raising and lowering operations into the drive shaft
  • Crossed under 13 Network Rail lines on viaducts originally built in 1830’s coming from London Bridge
  • Crossed under ‘live’ operational Jubilee lines with no settlement, plus crossed under the Thames
  • Carried out three ‘free-air’ tunnel boring machine interventions to inspect the cutter-head, a process that takes 4 days and nights, replacing the teeth and picks to work at maximum efficiency

Nadia Savage: We must shine a light on fantastic female engineers

18 April 2016

In recognition of International Women’s Day last month, Nadia Savage LFM JV board director, wrote a piece for Construction News about gender parity in the construction industry. Nadia puts forward a number of recommendations based on her professional experience, having started her career as a civil engineering apprentice 25 years ago.

Despite growing awareness about the need to address gender parity, the recent report mentioned in Nadia’s article Women in Rail highlights that women make up only four per cent of the current engineering workforce of the UK rail industry. In absolute terms, the total number of women employed in the rail industry is the same as it was 100 years ago at the dawn of World War I.

As Nadia writes the key to improving these statistics is “positive action”. She proposes that, “it is not because the sector, and everyone in it, is inherently biased or discriminate. Instead, I would suggest it is in part due to our image. As an industry, we have failed to engage with the general public, the source of the workforce, to sell what a fantastic career construction can offer everyone, whether male or female.”

In the article, Nadia says that, “We must celebrate success by shining a light on our fantastic female engineers, managers, administrators, surveyors, planners, designers and many others that already contribute to the success of the industry.” She makes clear that it is also about modernising work practices as a whole, “not just to attract more female workers, but for the health benefit of everyone in the industry.” 

With major UK infrastructure projects both underway and on the horizon, Nadia says that the “conditions are perfect for a step change in gender balance in the industry. We can firmly place equality, diversity and inclusivity onto the table as a must-have requirement.”

LFM has made a firm commitment to being an equal opportunities employer. Laing O’Rourke, FCC Construction and Murphy all have a workforce that reflects the diverse society in which we live and work. 

As Nadia concludes, “Let each of us play our part in improving the gender imbalance; constructively challenge unconscious bias when you see it, make small changes wherever you can to improve working environments, such as our new female PPE, and, most of all, shine a light on success. Parity is possible …don’t keep it a secret.”

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