Unseen and unheard: two construction projects that will transform lives

Unseen and unheard: two construction projects that will transform lives

With just months to go, most people in the UK are still largely unaware that Europe’s single biggest infrastructure project is nearing completion. As Londoners go about their daily lives, underneath their feet, a truly gargantuan construction project is taking shape where 10,000 people working on 40 construction sites are carving out – amongst other things – 42 kilometres of tunnels. Once fully opened, Crossrail will transform public transport in London, predicted to increase rail capacity by 10 per cent and bringing an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London.

Crossrail will rank with the Channel Tunnel as a truly transformational infrastructure construction project that we can all be justifiably proud of.

But a no less transformational construction project is also being undertaken today that is also unseen here in the UK but one that, when it finishes in 2016, we can all be equally proud of.  It is when the airport on St Helena opens. A highly complex project that requires a highly trained construction team.

Credit to Marc Lavaud

Credit to Marc Lavaud

I recently visited St Helena. Located approximately 1,200 miles North West of Cape Town, St Helena is little known. This tiny British Outpost (just 47-square miles) is, in 2016, going to get its first ever airport which is set to boost tourism. Until the airport is complete St Helena remains one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands – five days at sea from Cape Town.

The reason some people may have heard of the island is because Napoleon was banished to St Helena after his defeat at the battle of Waterloo and he arguably put this remote island on the map. The island boasts several factors that makes it unique and of considerable interest to UK holiday makers seeking somewhere new. These include the world’s oldest tortoise; extensive (and largely untouched) Georgian architecture and, despite its isolation, a quintessentially British way of life.

Due to the island’s location, consider the logistics involved in having to build a new wharf so that you can dock the ships that are needed to unload the road construction vehicles. Also consider the logistics involved in constructing a 2.4km long runway on a volcanic island that is only is 10.5 miles long and therefore entails, amongst other things, filling in a valley (or ‘Dry Gut’ as it is known on the Island) with 450,000 truckloads of material. Consider that every item used in the project, from the diesel in the vehicles, to the food consumed by the workers, has been transported over 1200 miles from the South-West coast of Africa. Finally, consider that the project must be constructed in such a way that it minimises the impact on both the fragile environment and equally fragile local economy.

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So hats off to all those involved in this project; especially the Department for International Development (DFID), the St Helena Government and Basil Read. Their joint efforts will ensure that the Airport ends a centuries-old period of isolation for the islanders, and gives the world an opportunity to visit this enchanting place.

Note to readers: Keene Communications has worked with the St Helena Government since 2009 and for the St Helena Tourism since 2010. This was the first time Keene’s Chairman, Simon Quarendon, had visited the Island.

Simon Quarendon

Simon Quarendon

As the consultancy’s Chairman, Simon has strategic oversight of all clients. His career in communications spans 28 years, during which time he has held senior management positions in some of the UK’s leading PR agencies.

During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.
Simon Quarendon

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About the Author

As the consultancy’s Chairman, Simon has strategic oversight of all clients. His career in communications spans 28 years, during which time he has held senior management positions in some of the UK’s leading PR agencies. During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.