The Story of Niffany bridge aka Mr Prince versus the
Before I was a teacher I was an engineering project manager for a few companies in Derby.
At one company I had to project manage the building of a railway bridge near Skipton at a place called Niffany. I had 10 weeks to get the bits of the bridge to Skipton for a Friday night so it could have a train running over it Monday morning.
I had a few of the things you need for a project I knew what I had to do - build a bridge, at a price that had been agreed, for a cetain date. So I had a plan and I knew what the deliverables were- they wanted a bridge on a certain day .
I had resources. I had a skilled factory of hairy welders and platers who were good at making things (the comapny I worked for had been around for 50 years).
I had a design from Network Rail for the bridge and a long complicated specification about what the bridge must and must not do.
The bridge was to be built in 8 sections that would go on a lorry and assembled on site over one weekend.
This was one of the worst jobs I ever project managed, here is what went wrong;
- The welding of the bridge bases "the decks" resulted in the deck buckling, until it looked like the surface of the moon. It was up to 150mm wrong in some places.. The welders were not used to working with steel as thick (500mm) as this and things got too hot on one side making the steel buckle.
- We tried to fix the deck by sending it to a complany near Pudsey to roll it flat. This involved it going on a wide load lorry at 20mph. This took two days as each deck was the size of a house.
- The company in Pudsey told us they could roll the decks in two days. They hadn't done it after 10 days when I went to check and a lorry was parked on one section. When they still hadn't done it after 12 days we sent the decks back on another wide load at 20mph.
- The job was now a fortnight behind the plan. We now worked out that we could flatten the plates by putting a blow torch on the back of them to get them flat but this took about week to do as well. We had now wasted a lot of time and money.
- We ended up so rushed we had to employ extra welders and pay them loads of money this ate up all the profit in the job.
- We ended up with a week to paint the bridges the painting specification was a five coat system sand balst three coats of aluminium and two coats of epoxy. I knew things were going to be tight when I was in Doncaster at the painters at 11 O'clock on a Saturday night whilst we paid painters double time to paint the bridges when they would rather have been in the pub. The double time for the painting meant the job was now running at a loss
- The bridge pieces got to the site the following Friday, when the railway was going to be closed over the weekend. This is called a "possesion" you book these two years in advance. The old bridge had to be removed and the new one in place by 9.00 am Monday morning so a train could go over it. This date could not move.
- When we started to try and bolt the setions of the bridge together on site, we found the holes we had drilled for the bolts were to small. Someone had asked for a bolt off Railtrack to make sure and the had said "Oh ust use one you have got lying around in your factory" and we had.
- All evening we had people drilling out the bolt holes to make them bigger. We started craning in the bridge into place 11 oclock Saturday morning.
- The train did go over the bridge at 9.00 am on Monday and the bridge didn't break, but this was not a good example of how to run a project.
- The company lost £46,000 on this job. I left the company to teach outdoor pursuits.