In a leafy corner of Raynes Park, SW20, lies a very powerful monster never seen in England until now. This beast of a machine will reduce the risk of interruptions to water supplies for the 82,000 Thames Water customers who are connected to the pipes, and also reduce the risk of emergency road works.
Secured in a large trench, the imposing giant is capable of producing a staggering 100 tonnes of thrust, which will push new trunk main pipes through the century-old Victorian ones.
“Modern techniques allow us to slide the new plastic pipes inside the old ones,” says project manager Ben Connis, from Thames Water alliance eight2O. “This reduces the need to excavate large trenches and, as a result, improves safety while reducing cost.”
Part of this £5.5 million scheme requires two cast iron trunk mains to be re-lined between Raynes Park recreation ground and a pedestrian footpath, known as ‘The Cut’, opposite New Malden railway station – a distance of around 1,700m each
Ben added: “For this project we also carefully planned where we would excavate to keep disruption to The Cut and Coombe Road to a minimum while we rehabilitated these mains that pre-date the reign of Queen Victoria.”
Grunting into action, the huge pipe-pusher drives 12 metre lengths of 710mm PE SDR11 – high density polyethylene pipes – inside the old Victorian mains from Raynes Park to the rear of the railway station, a distance of 1,200m, with the remaining 500m being slip-lined through The Cut.
The pipe pushing machine is so efficient that it can push a 12m length quicker than the time needed to fusion weld the next length onto the run. The huge machine, commissioned from Dutch company Gebr. van Leeuwen Boringen BV, was lifted out of its trench by crane on Tuesday and is now returning home to Holland. It is highly likely to return for Phase 2 of the project, which is in the planning stages.