22/04/2008

Tunnel Breakthrough For Belfast Sewers Project

Nearly a mile long and 40 metres below ground, a key section of Belfast's deepest tunnel was completed yesterday as the tunnel boring machine (TBM) made its breakthrough at Duncrue Street.

Capable of holding vast overflows of stormwater - up to four million gallons - it will reduce the risk of sewer flooding in the greater Belfast area.

Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy welcomed the major milestone for the £100million Belfast Sewers Project.

Speaking on site the Minister said: "Today's breakthrough is a key milestone in this vital project. The scheme represents a commitment to providing Belfast with a sewerage network that has been designed by the highest industry standards to last well in to the 21st century. This system will accommodate the expanding city and its drainage needs, significantly reducing the risk of flooding and reducing the risk of pollution to the River Lagan."

This section of tunnel is the longest completed stretch of the Belfast Sewers Project, which when finished will comprise a six mile tunnel from Cromac Street to Duncrue Street, with a network of tributary tunnels. The project is one of the biggest civil engineering infrastructure projects in the UK.

The NI Water scheme will provide the greater Belfast area with a modern sewerage system by 2009 to replace a 19th century sewer network which can no longer cope with the needs of the expanding city.

Katharine Bryan, Chief Executive of NI Water said: "Today represents another landmark in our journey to a modern and effective sewerage system for Belfast.

"NI Water has a massive programme of water and wastewater infrastructure investment underway.

"This involves an investment of a million pounds every working day in schemes which will benefit homes and businesses. I am delighted that we are well on track to bring such large scale benefits to the city," she said.

Bill Gowdy, NI Water Project Sponsor, said that the TBM has cut through at a rate of 30 feet per hour since June last year.

He said that, following a naming-tradition on such projects, the TBM is called 'Lucille'.

He added: "Lucille was specifically selected for this work to ensure that tunnelling on such a large and complex scale could be delivered swiftly, accurately and safely without disturbing surrounding soil."

Morgan Est and Farrans are the main contractors for this major investment, alongside NI Water's appointed project managers, Atkins. Throughout each stage of this programme a range of advanced technologies have been employed to ensure that the initiative runs safely and efficiently. The programme is due for completion in late 2009.

(VB)

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