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FPS chairman's blog: Sharing the Crossrail knowledge for a better future

There can be no doubt Crossrail was - and still is - an ambitious infrastructure project in its aim to improve journey times across London and at the same time ease congestion through better connections. However, such large-scale projects are not without their challenges as they typically require the use of many different specialist foundation construction techniques, often to significant depths and their deployment in many demanding locations and ground conditions. 

These “challenges” had to be overcome and despite all the issues the Crossrail project raised, and the demands it made on people, knowledge, expertise and resource, it is important that as an industry we learn from these experiences. This learning process is important as it ensures the deep foundation sector moves forward, becomes more efficient and innovative, but at the same time is better prepared for future work on other large projects such as HS2.

The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS), together with Crossrail, has decided the best way forward is to host a specialist one day specialist foundation construction conference focusing on “Lessons learnt”. The event will serve as a platform for free and open discussion about some of the issues raised during the installation of deep foundation elements and other specialist foundation techniques on the project, but with the wider aim of sharing information. Crossrail used the services of many of the FPS’s members, all of whom have a story to tell. While it may seem counter to the commercial interest of individual members to share information, in reality this knowledge sharing is what will place all FPS members and the wider foundation sector in a far stronger position when tendering for work on future projects. It will also be of great benefit to clients.

Challenge drives innovation and the creative, technological and often “hard-graft” solutions that problems demand. It is how these challenges were surmounted that we hope our event will tap into. We have a number of solutions-based papers to discuss, submitted across a variety of foundation topics. These combined with keynote speakers, formal presentations and discussion sessions will provide a platform for lively debate.

HS2 is on the horizon and will be an infrastructure project that surpasses pretty much all that has gone before it. Its scale will present its own demands but we will also see many issues that we have encountered during the Crossrail experience. It will present demands in terms of geological, logistical and resource, but also of budget and time-scale and I have no doubt it will equally push our knowledge and experience to a new level. However, its success will be traceable directly to the lessons we have learned on Crossrail, described in this event.

Change in the construction sector is often considered “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary” but through events such as this, and many others being organised across the construction industry – maybe, just maybe, we’re on the brink of something revolutionary!

The joint FPS/Crossrail event will be held Tuesday 10 November 2015 at London’s Living Room, City Hall with transcripts and papers available for review shortly after.

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