Structural issues cause 12-month delay to underpass project

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Unforeseen damage to a concrete slab in the ceiling of the underpass has necessitated further structural work which will have caused a 12-month delay in the project by the time the underpass reopens for Easter 2012, the latest Facilities Department statement has revealed.

The repairs will also represent a significant additional cost to the project of £880 000.

Last week Director of Facilities Mark Swindlehurst told SCAN that although “further repairs to the underpass” have extended “over and above the original proposals,” the “full extent of repairs [has] now been identified and the remedial work is due to begin in November 2011.”

SCAN can now reveal that previously unidentified damage to the concrete slab, a section of which fell from the ceiling onto the road in January 2011, is at the root of the problem.

A structural engineering consultant’s initial assessment did not raise any issues with the slab, so the proposed works were approved and tendered, commencing in August 2011.

Asked whether there was any reason for the damage not being discovered until the latter stages of construction, the Facilities Department provided a detailed description of the assessment process.

“During the design stage the structural engineering consultant and the landscape architect undertook an assessment of the existing concrete slab in the ceiling of the underpass taking into account loadings on the Square.

“No issues were raised from this assessment with regard to the existing slab.  As part of this assessment the consultant carried out intrusive investigations at the location of the new lift shaft and a temporary opening through the underpass structural slab.  They concluded that there were no issues with the proposed works.  On this basis the design was approved and tendered,” the statement read.

Following the January incident, “investigation work was carried out and it was decided to relocate the bus station as a precautionary measure because of health and safety concerns. General traffic flow was also stopped and redirected,” Swindlehurst said.

Elaborating, Swindlehurst said that “subsequent to the above incident the consultant carried out a further structural inspection following the removal of the shuttering boards and it was found that the concrete slab had evidence of corrosion and chloride attack.”

The extra year’s work, then, will involve structural repairs to prolong the life of the slabs in the underpass ceiling.

This should take place at a cost of £880 000, on top of the £2.5m already spent on the underpass and Alexandra Square rejuvenation project. This was approved at the University’s Finance Committee on 21st October 2011, with work expected to begin in November.

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