Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Firm to probe Westlink underpass flooding

A roads construction consultancy firm has been appointed to lead an independent investigation into the flooding of the Westlink in Belfast.

The probe — by Amey Consulting — will look at the weather conditions that caused the newly opened underpass at Broadway to fill to the lip with floodwater, identify the cause of the flooding, examine the response, the design and construction of the underpass and potential mitigation in the future.

Several cars became submerged after torrential rain left the newly opened Broadway underpass submerged in 20ft of floodwater on August 16.

The floodwaters rose swiftly in the tunnel after the Clowney River, one of two rivers crossing the Westlink at that point, overflowed its culverts and began pouring into the tunnel. The river is prone to flash flooding in heavy rain but the scale of flooding across Northern Ireland proved almost unprecedented.

Last week, Transport Minister Conor Murphy ordered a full independent investigation into the flooding of the underpass, admitting there had been “serious failings”.

“The Westlink is strategically a very important route and it was opened with great fanfare and welcome a few months ago, and to find that in the first serious weather incident it is completely flooded out is a huge concern,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Now, Amey Consulting, a service support firm employing more than 8,000 people across the UK, has been named as the consultant tasked with leading the probe.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Regional Development said: “Roads Service has confirmed it has appointed Amey to carry out a full and thorough independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the flooding of the Broadway underpass on August 16.

“Amey are experienced consultants in the field of roads construction with expertise in design, build, finance and operate projects. Amey have not been involved in the design and construction of the Westlink.”

Amey Consulting confirmed that it had been appointed by the Northern Ireland Roads Service to conduct an independent investigation into the Westlink flooding.

“Issues that will be addressed include the weather conditions that are attributed to the flooding, identification of the cause of the flooding, response to flooding, the design and construction of the underpass and potential mitigation in the future,” a spokeswoman said.

“Discussions are ongoing with the Roads Service in relation to the timeframe and cost of the commission.

“Amey is an experienced road construction consultant, with expertise in design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) projects.

“We have worked on numerous projects for the Highways Agency, Department for Transport, Transport Scotland and various local authorities, as well as the Northern Ireland Road Service. Further details of our capabilities can be found at www.amey.co.uk.”

The company has been involved with a number of high-profile Roads Service contracts in Northern Ireland and was named several years ago as one of three firms invited to tender for the Westlink project, but Northern Ireland’s first design, build, finance and operate project contract was won by Highway Management Construction (HMC), a joint venture between John Graham (Dromore) Ltd, Farrans Ltd and Bilfinger Berger AG Civil, Germany.

Amey is involved in the Roads Service scheme to upgrade the A1 road, which includes a new outer bypass of the existing carriageway at Newry between Beech Hill and Cloghogue.

The project will also see the construction of a new dual carriageway for the A4 from Dungannon to Ballygawley and Amey will be responsible for operating and maintaining the entire 125km length of road for 30 years.

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