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16th April 2021



Dave Baxter, Heavy Cranes technical contracts manager at Ainscough Crane Hire

Communication between all stakeholders within a project can have a huge impact on the success of a lift. Construction projects require an expert team with a multitude of different skills to oversee the different components of the programme and without proper collaboration, it only takes one faulty part to stop the wheel.

Having a close working relationship with the customer proved vital during Ainscough Crane Hire’s recent work at Northwich Junction, located in Cheshire on the Middlewich railway line. Originally opened in 1868, the line was closed to the public in 1960 and is now one of the busiest service lines for freight traffic in the North West. As part of preparations for HS2, the project formed part of a larger multi‐billion Great North Rail Project investment by Network Rail to improve and update freight services in the North for the expected increase in traffic.

In March 2020, we were contacted by leading construction and engineering company J Murphy and Sons, to assist in the removal and replacement of two Rail over Canal & Road Bridges.

Our working relationship with Murphy was already well‐established – thanks to the high volume of jobs we have completed together, our project teams were familiar which each other’s operations and knew to prioritise strong communication channels and early engagement.

Planning, therefore, began early on, with numerous meetings being held over a six month period. Throughout the lift planning, we held seven teams meetings and three on‐site meetings to discuss details such as the dismantling procedure, lifting radius, outrigger pads and loadings and the procedure to install the new bridges. Ground conditions were not ideal due to the past mining in the area. The Temporary Works Engineers, therefore, carried out a full site investigation and produced a working plan that allowed the specified crane to work safely. We all knew that, given the live nature of the site, public access would be required at all times due to the busy traffic.

The team also had to comply with strict COVID‐19 social‐distancing measures which, given the tight constraints of the site, necessitated a thought‐out plan of operations to ensure that as few people were onsite as possible to ensure a safe working delivery. Our presence on-site had to be time and energy efficient, turning six months of planning into six days of work.

Murphy set about preparing the line and existing structures before we arrived, tailoring the site to our requests to ensure that we could work to lift the old steel sections out quickly once the equipment had arrived and been fully prepared and rigged.

Working over a period of four days, two lift teams consisting of five members from Ainscough’s Leyland depot arrived on-site mid‐November to remove the existing bridges and take delivery of the new units, before lifting them into place over a series of alternating twelve‐hour shifts. Weather conditions were adverse during the week and throughout the lift, both project teams worked together to keep access to the public highway maintained for local residents. Added to this was the need for Covid‐19 precautions, requiring the proper use of PPE for all site workers and social distancing measures in place at all times.

The new bridge decks weighed 90.0te & 34.0te and were 17.0 & 7.0m metres long, necessitating a large crane capacity. Through communication between Murphy and Ainscough Crane Hire, the Terex CC2800‐1 crane was confirmed as the correct crane for the works due to its impressive lifting capacity combined with a more compact base that could travel along the crane pad.

A total of 540.0te of counterweight was used. The crane’s 72.0m SSL main boom was rigged in the three days prior to the lift taking place using a Liebherr LTM1100‐5.2 mobile crane. Thanks to prior discussions with Murphy and a previous site visit, sixteen steel mats had also put in place to spread the track loads and ensure a stable base, minimising risk and ensuring all calculations aligned exactly as planned. Thanks to our extensive planning, and our skilled operators, this was another successful lift with no incidents or accidents recorded.

Since our work on the project was completed, the new bridges have been working effectively to transport important goods across the North West. Despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to work through a difficult year to carry out lifts and installations safely, whilst ensuring minimal disruption to the public.

Here at Ainscough Crane Hire, we understand the difference that a good customer relationship can make to a construction project. Our focus is not just on delivering a lift, but also ensuring first‐class customer service across all stages of the process.

The 125-hour blockade to deliver the two new bridges was successfully handed back on time in mid-November. It took months of planning, but the result of our effective collaboration with Murphys and the expert preparedness of both teams was that we could work quickly to pave the way for Murphys and Network Rail to continue their important work in preparing the region for new and exciting growth. In our books, that’s the ultimate end goal.

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