Scotland’s best civil engineering projects revealed

The entrance to Buchanan Street Subway station in Glasgow. The underground network has been extensively refurbished. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
The entrance to Buchanan Street Subway station in Glasgow. The underground network has been extensively refurbished. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL
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The modernisation of a 120-year-old underground railway and the long-awaited completion of the M8 motorway have been named among the best civil engineering projects in Scotland.

Work to upgrade the Glasgow Subway, first opened in 1896, involved up to 150 contractors working for four-and-a-half hour spells overnight to strengthen the Victorian tunnels - meaning trains could continue to run as normal for the 40,000 passengers who use the system daily.

The M8 'missing link' was opened in April. Picture: John Devlin

The M8 'missing link' was opened in April. Picture: John Devlin

The project was this week commended for its innovation at the 2017 Saltire Civil Engineering Awards at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Organised by the Saltire Society and the Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE), the event recognised the best industry developments across the country.

Judges hailed the subway work, describing it as an “impressive logistical feat” that involved engineers cleaning and inspecting 14,600m of tunnel and 14,000m of track bed and drainage channel, repairing 2,800m

of tunnel and carrying out 3,000m of grouting work over a two year period.

Contractors at work on the Beauly-Denny power line near Torwood in Larbert. Picture: Michael Gillen/TSPL

Contractors at work on the Beauly-Denny power line near Torwood in Larbert. Picture: Michael Gillen/TSPL

Bespoke equipment was also designed and fabricated to transport approximately 175,000 bags of grout materials and the various equipment required into the subway stations.

READ MORE: The transformation of Glasgow’s Subway is exciting, says Alastair Dalton

The long-planned M8, M73, and M74 motorway improvements project won in the infrastructure category in recognition of the difference it has made to drivers across the central belt.

It involved completing the so-called missing link between Glasgow and Edinburgh and introducing uninterrupted motorway between the cities for the first time. Other changes included improvements to the old A8, M73, M74 and Raith junction.

The improvements should lead to reduced congestion and emissions, better journey times, improved reliability and, it is expected, increased safety.

The work also had the principal aim of boosting Scotland’s economy – journey time savings were assessed as contributing more than £1bn by improving connections for businesses.

Economy secretary Keith Brown said: “This award is very well deserved as the motorway improvements project was a massive undertaking which presented a range of technical and logistical challenges within a demanding timeframe.

“The project team’s response was first class and delivered a rejuvenated road network which is already delivering for Scotland’s economy by cutting congestion and reducing journey times for more than 100,000 vehicles a day.”

Construction on the project started in February 2014 and all roads were opened to traffic in Spring 2017, as planned.

READ MORE: M8 ‘missing link’ section due to open ahead of schedule

The new Beauly-Denny overhead transmission line - which doubled the capacity of the energy network - won the greatest contribution to Scotland award.

Stretching for 220km, it was described by judges as the most “significant electricity infrastructure project Scotland has seen in a generation”.

The project involved the construction of more than 250km of access tracks across some of Scotland’s most remote, inhospitable and environmentally-challenging terrain. A total of 579 unique transmission towers were designed and installed.

At its peak it was the largest piling project in Europe and required 25,000 tonnes of ‘355 high tensile J2’ steel, never before used in the manufacture of transmission towers.

The project was subject to considerable scrutiny with 17,000 objections resulting in the biggest ever public enquiry in Scotland.