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Far from the usual drill as river team dig deep to engineer change

Posted on 26 July 2017 04:20 PM by Sugar1C


In the words of UB40, there are ‘many rivers to cross’, but thankfully the current project I’m leading involves just two rivers – albeit drilling beneath them.


I’m the project manager for a £30 million scheme to boost power supplies to Felixstowe, Shotley and Harwich.

Work began last year and now we are at the stage where we are drilling under the River Orwell in Suffolk at Trimley beside the Port of Felixstowe and over to the opposite bank at Shotley. Once that is completed we will be drilling under the River Stour between Shotley in Suffolk and Harwich in Essex.

It’s quite rare for electricity companies to drill under two major rivers so we have brought in expert engineers from the Netherlands to carry out this specialist work.

They’re a great team – very skilled and hard working but fun as well. They also serve the best coffee in Suffolk in their container-cum-restroom on site!

There has been quite a lot of interest in the scheme already from residents and councillors and on the 18th of July, both the BBC and ITV came to film how the work was progressing and featured it on their news bulletins throughout the day. To be honest, I think doing those TV interviews was more nerve-wracking than drilling under the river! The story has also featured on BBC Radio Suffolk, Heart FM and in the East Anglian Daily Times.

This is a very high profile project in East Anglia it has been making the headlines for several months. Earlier this year it featured in local newspapers and on BBC Radio Suffolk when archaeological work ahead of the trenches being dug unearthed a number of interesting finds including early Bronze Age round barrows, the foundations of an Iron Age round house and remnants of a Roman settlement.

This current drilling stage of the scheme is expected to be completed by November. Both the drilling sites at Trimley and Shotley will be restored to how they were before plus additional enhancements – for example, soil from the under the river bed will be used to build up a bank between the reserve and the port to help shield it from the noise.

The entire project, which also includes laying two circuits of 16km of 132,000-volt cable and 22.5km of 33,000-volt cable, is due to be completed at the end of 2018.

Then once the new electricity cables are connected and electricity is flowing through them, more than 20 kilometres of overhead power lines will be removed from the scenic landscape along the River Orwell, so improving the appearance of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Special Protection Areas along the rivers and coastline.

 And then once the work is done, I’ll be thinking about another UB40 song … red, red wine!

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