Recently, COWI engineer Amy Campbell joined a site tour of the area where The Lower Thames Crossing (LTC), a major new highway tunnel under the River Thames to the east of London, will be located.
"It really brought to life the reality of the potential impact LTC could have on the local area and emphasised the importance of ensuring our solution is the best it can be to minimise and justify those impacts," she explains.
The visit also highlighted the need for a new crossing: on the return journey from the site tour, Amy and her colleagues experienced first-hand the issues that go on at the Dartford Crossing, which is currently the only road crossing of the Thames east of London.
"There was a major incident and traffic was at a standstill. We had to decide quickly whether to merge onto the slip road for Dartford and wait, or detour into the City of London to go through the regularly congested Blackwall Tunnel.’’
Amy's experience is not unusual - the Dartford Crossing is partially or fully closed over 300 times a year and it typically takes 3 to 5 hours for the roads to clear following closure. It also has one of the highest incident rates on the major road network.
‘’The journey highlighted the crossing's sensitivity to an incident and the domino effect on the surrounding road network. With the number of journeys across the Thames forecast to increase, particularly for light and heavy goods vehicles, the situation will only deteriorate if we don't build a new crossing. LTC will provide the resilience that is desperately needed and open up new opportunities that are not currently viable."
As a member of the Cascade Joint Venture, COWI is working as a technical partner to National Highways for the project, alongside Arcadis and Jacobs, and it is fair to say Glasgow-based Amy has no regrets about undertaking her secondment with the project team in London.
"It's such an exciting project and I feel so proud to work on it," she enthuses. "The fact that I've stayed for 18 months when I was only supposed to be here for six is testament to the people, the work and the opportunities I've been given. Moving to London and joining LTC was definitely a leap of faith, but it feels like a defining moment in my early career.’’
Moving to London and joining LTC was definitely a leap of faith, but it feels like a defining moment in my early career.
Since the Government announced the preferred route in April 2017, the team has been working to develop the design of the project.
Although it is the smallest member of the Cascade Joint Venture, COWI has had an important role in the initial design work.
"We are leading on the design of the main crossing and portal structures, as well as being involved in other project workstreams," Amy explains.
A civil engineer by training, Amy's role on LTC has been a wide-ranging project management job.
"I'm lucky that my role has been so varied. In the first six months, I focused on improving design integration across the project team. I then led a team responsible for producing a virtual journey through the crossing, which we published earlier this year to help the public understand what the scheme might look like.”
"My work for COWI and involvement on LTC has encouraged me to recognise the importance of each project phase in shaping the overall solution. As engineers, we have a responsibility within each phase to challenge and influence many different aspects as we work towards the optimal solution.
"For me, one of the best things about being a civil engineer is being in a profession that, through projects like LTC, we can positively contribute to society and enhance quality of life.''