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UXO survey underway for London City Airport expansion

An extensive unexploded ordnance (UXO) survey is currently underway at London City Airport ready for King George V Dock to be expanded to create the land for the airport’s redevelopment.

The UXO survey, being undertaken by Reach Engineering and Dive Services and Dynasafe Bactec, will ensure the safe installation of 1,100 piles in the dock bed to support the new concrete deck - part of the airport’s £480M expansion.

The new deck will have new terminal facilities, eight aircraft stands and a parallel taxiway.

The overall scheme is being delivered by Bam Nuttall and piling work has been subcontracted to Cementation Skanska  is already installing the piles by vibrated them into position and then backfilled with concrete.

Now the airport has released a new video which goes behind-the-scenes of the UXO survey ongoing in King George V Dock since November 2017 - the largest inshore diving project in the country.

The divers and surveyors have been checking over 400 sites on the dock bed, deemed to show ‘ferrous anomalies’ during initial magnetometer surveys.

The vast majority of these sites have been benign, but in February 2018 a 500kg German bomb was found just to the south of the terminal’s east pier, leading to the closure of the airport and the implementation of a 214m cordon while the Royal Navy removed the ordnance for detonation off Shoeburyness.

As it stands, 38 final sites require investigation, with a view to survey completion in early November.

London City Airport CEO Robert Sinclair said: “This has been a mammoth survey - the largest inshore diving project in the country, on the doorstep of London’s most central airport - requiring world-class skill and patience.

“We are now entering its final stages and this video helps convey the huge complexities involved and the hidden history uncovered in the docks. The survey’s success is intrinsic to the development construction phase, which is underway, meaning we can get on with building an even better airport for Londoners and visitors to our great city.”

The video includes interviews with Alex Werner, Curator at the Museum of London Docklands, who explains the history of the site; and Mike Clapham, Senior Field Engineer from delivery partner, Bechtel, with details on the survey’s complexities, and fascinating insight on finds from the dock bed, including a Ford Mk I Escort, kilometres of steel wire rope, and a motorbike.

Reach Engineering and Dive Services (REDS) dive supervisor Andy Peel also features in the film alongside Tom Fountain, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Diver from Dynasafe Bactec, who was the first to formally identify the February UXO.

Diver Tom Fountain’s candid account of the survey gives a sense of the challenges posed. He said: “Honestly? The environment in King George V Dock is pretty grim, I’m not going to lie. It’s not like diving in the Caribbean. It’s pretty dark and muddy. I’ve been here since November and some of the dives we did were two, two and half, hours. It was cold. Minus 4. Cold. Damp.”

Earlier this month, the airport released a video showing the scale of the expansion work and Cementation Skanska’s progress on the piled deck.

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