Things are happening in Birmingham

Name: Alex Romankiw
Age: 22
Job title: Site Engineer
Qualifications: BSc Civil Engineering (Hons) 2015
University: Nottingham Trent University
Employer: North Midland Highways & Utilities
Where you live: Nottingham, originally from Leicester

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Project: Birmingham Midland Metro, Centenary Square Extension – Utility Diversions.

Things are happening in Birmingham. Visitors arriving at New Street, the city’s main rail station, are greeted by a construction site.

The Midland Metro, a tram system that runs from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, is being extended through the city centre streets to finish at New Street station. New Street station is being rebuilt too, to improve access for passengers. The impressive works are due to be completed in the autumn of 2015, and the tram extension opened to passengers before Christmas.

However, the work doesn’t stop there. The tram will continue to be extended through the city centre, from New Street to Centenary Square – a large public space where the International Convention Centre, Reparatory Theatre, and new Birmingham library are located. In order to prepare for the construction of the extension to Centenary Square, all of the pipes and cables underground (known as utilities) have to be moved.

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My job, as site engineer, is to ensure that the water and gas pipes, and electricity and telecommunications cables, are moved out of the way to allow the tram to be built. To do this I mark the route of the tram rails on the ground, so that we know which areas to avoid. I also record the positions of where utilities are moved to, so we know where things are in the future.

My day starts at 7am in Birmingham city centre, having a cup of tea and watching the first few commuters making their way to work. I take pictures of all the work that was done the day before – a picture tells a thousand words! I then discuss the work for the day with the supervisor and client, to make sure I give them all the information they need. This information is the route of the tram, or where new areas of road will be built as part of the scheme.

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I also record the position of the new cables and pipes, using a machine called a Total station. This machine plots the locations of the utilities in an electronic drawing, which can then be viewed on a computer and even turned into a 3D computer model.

I often have to speak to lots of different people – such as from the water and gas companies, who are working with us to lay new pipes. Sometimes I speak to the client and designers, who are checking on the progress we are making. Because of all the construction going on around us, I sometimes speak to the engineers from other projects to provide them with information on what we are doing.

Working on big projects, or in areas with other schemes adjacent to yours, means that cooperation is vital. In a busy city centre, communication is key to make sure work areas don’t clash. Consideration for the surrounding shops, restaurants and offices is also needed – they are all trying to get on with their jobs too!

It’s great being able to meet new people as you will always learn something. I also love being able to work outdoors – when the British weather chooses to be nice! It’s great for your health, and allows you to experience new places.

There are challenges on site. Sometimes the workers will dig up a cable or pipe they didn’t expect to find, or is in the way. The buildings in Birmingham are very old, and many have cellars extending underneath the streets. You have to be careful not to damage any of the old brickwork, otherwise the cellars may collapse! However, challenges such as these allow you to use your problem-solving skills to develop a solution. Finding and implementing a solution to a challenge feels great – that’s when you know you are really adding value to a project.

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