23 September 2021

Moses Borland reflects on the Medway Viaduct Project (UK)

“I learned that whatever the contractual conditions, personal relations play a big part in resolving issues.” 

Medway Viaduct at night

At 1025m long the Medway Viaduct was the largest structure on Section 1 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (now High Speed 1). This is the high speed railway from the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom, France and Central London.  

What did the viaduct consist of? 

The Viaduct consisted of an insitu balanced cantilever with a 150.4m main span and two 90m back spans 30m above the estuary. The approach spans were a 340m long incremental launch with 45m spans on the western approach and a 520m long incremental launch with 45m spans on the eastern approach. 

Project Manager, Moses Borland explains he still feels privileged to have been involved in this complex project. Not only did he gain valuable technical and practical skills from this experience, but he also developed life-long relationships. 

Tell us about your involvement in this project. 

I joined the engineering management team about 3 months after the start of construction and developed the construction methodology, temporary works schemes and liaised with the designer to achieve value engineering proposals. This resulted in being promoted to Engineering Manager. 

What was your biggest challenge? 

There were a few challenges throughout the project; one of them being a change of Government in the UK at the time. The change resulted in the incoming government nearly cancelling the whole project and the design work being stopped for a period.  

However, the Deputy Prime Minister secured funding for the project and so it being of high priority resulted in the construction starting before the design was ready.  

Another hurdle we had to cross was the contract being a construct-only Engineering Contract /Target Cost Contract which, back then, was a new way of working and required early warning of disputes. This of course caused difficult relations between the Project Management team as the lack of design work was delaying the construction of the project.  

How did you overcome the challenge? 

Something I learned and still stay by is that whatever the contractual conditions, personal relations play a big part in resolving issues. I was fortunate enough to have a new on-site Design Manager join the project at the same time as me, and we got on well. We both took a proactive approach to releasing the design before final signoff which allowed for procurement and construction planning. We also developed good relations with the off-site design team to allow construction input to the design. 

Pile Rebar

Another challenge we overcame was the cultural indifferences through the joint venture of a smaller English and a major French contractor which led to a few cultural indifferences.  

Being Irish allowed me to have a mediating role and a few necessary changes in personnel led to much better relations on the project. The French accepted that the English were not all technically deficient, and the English understood that they can actually learn a few things from the major international contractor. Unfortunately, other than a Gallic shrug my French did not improve! 

What do you cherish the most from this experience? 

After 20 years, I am still friends with the people I met on the project and although I am now on the other side of the world we stay connected. The most important experience of all is that I met my wife at the Medway Viaduct. 

Have you gained any important skills from working on this project? 

The Medway Viaduct was my first experience on a highly technical bridge construction including major marine works, tall sloping tapering piers, major bespoke temporary works and incremental launching and balanced cantilever construction.  

This experience was instrumental in my move to build major bridges in New Zealand and Australia and ultimately contributes to the skillset I bring to my role at CJC Management.  

Medway Viaduct in the morning

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