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Chairman Matthew Izzard was invited to be interviewed by the editor of the Polish magazine "Trenchless Engineering". Below is the full interview;


What is the condition of the trenchless market in Great Britain?
The trenchless technology market is very strong at the moment due to the demand for additional utility networks and the growth of fibre optic networks as well as the drive to reduce water leakage. As well as this practical growth we are also seeing drivers such as the environment and reduced public disruption in cities as well as technological advances in the equipment and design making jobs that were not possible to use no dig on in the past now becoming influencers.

What are the needs concerning the commissions and the workers?
Safety and competence of installation are generally the first two priorities. Trenchless technology has many benefits but it is important that the operators using the equipment do so in a safe environment and have been suitably trained for the application they are using. There are many courses and qualifications available and more companies are asking for certification of competence before works start. Critical aspects of projects mainly include permits to work, traffic management or road closures and compliance with legal requirements, national standards of installation and the utility companies conditions of acceptability. These are usually agreed between all parties before work commences as an approved Method Statement and Risk Assessment that include factors such as site safety for the workers and general public and time allowed for work.

How many firms are there on the market? Does the number of the companies Increase or decrease, is this market stabilized?
In the United Kingdom the gas, water and electricity are all privately owned, publicly listed companies who operate under regulation to the government. Most of the major companies then have a contractor management company operating with various smaller localised or specialised sub-contractors working for them. These are supported by design consultants, hire companies, suppliers and manufacturers – all who can be members of the UKSTT. The work is either scheduled on a long term framed contract which gives both the client and the contractor long term planning and financial benefits or short term specialist project work which is priced on a job by job basis.

What is the share of national and foreign companies in the market?
Ownership of utility companies by non-UK investors or global organisations has been a trend from several years now following on from privatisation. We also see multinational contractors and specialist equipment services companies working on project contracts. Predominantly on a local level the contractors are British with skilled workers from the European Union, mainly the UK and Ireland.

Since when the trenchless technologies are present in Great Britain; how they were developed during those years? Please, indicate the milestone in the British trenchless industry.
The first people to use trenchless technology and lay water and sewerage pipes in Britain were the Romans! Infact there are still parts of the network in London which may date from this time. It was the Victorians in the mid – late 1800's who started the first major water network expansion and Thames Water has only recently needed to complete a mains replacement programme nearly 150 years later! Although Britain was the first to provide consumers with commercial gas nearly 200 years ago the gas network was significantly developed in the 1950's and 1960's with the discovery of North Sea gas and now uses around 80% trenchless technology for installations, More recently we have seen a big demand for fibre networks for broadband supply.

Which area develops better: the trenchless construction or the trenchless renovation?
As with most Western European countries the UK has a large network of established infrastructure that is in constant need of upgrading and maintenance. Therefore renovation is a major area of investment by utility companies seeking to maximise their delivery of product to consumers. In recent years the industry has seen a huge increase in techniques such as lining – CIPP for example – especially in the water industry and pipe insertion in the gas sector. The demand for housing and broadband has also seen an increase in 'new lay' projects and the use of techniques such as directional drilling and impact moling are also increasing. Environmental targets such as the Paris Agreement have seen the UK government increase the amount of green energy construction projects – wind and solar farms – which further grow the amount of work available.

What kind of conduits are being built usually and for which sector (energy industry, telecommunication, water and sewage, oil and gas, etc.?) – what is the scale of the investments and their value?
The installation of fibre optic cable is currently the greatest amount of new conduits that are being installed as the demand for faster broadband and updating and increasing the network to each property is growing. As new houses are built and the requirement to increase delivery volume larger diameter mains are also being laid, many of these as part of rehabilitation programs. Green energy is being utilised more so the connection of solar and wind farms to the national grid requires the use of trenchless technology and this is also reflected in the next major growth area which is related to the electrificiation of the UK transport system and the installation of electric vehicle charge points across the country.

What are the current needs for the services concerning the construction of underground infrastructure using the trenchless methods?
Innovation and education are two large influencers that have an impact on the planning and delivery of work. The United Kingdom has a proud, long history of innovation and the latest developments in robotics, software - especially with regards asset management and service location – and keyhole technology has allowed designers to look at increasingly efficient, cost effective and reliable ways of installation. This makes the role of the UKSTT increasingly relevant as the society is an ideal platform for members to share the latest information and work together on increasing knowledge and overcoming challenges.
One of the most successful platforms for this is the free Technical Enquiry service on the UKSTT website (www.ukstt.org.uk) which allows anyone to submit an enquiry to us which is then circulated to all of our corporate members creating business opportunities.

What are the needs of renovation industry: how many conduits and of which type require renovation?
There are over 275,000k of low pressure gas pipes in the UK, 390,000 of water mains and 362,000k of sewer pipes so that's a lot of potential renovation work! A large part of the trenchless technology market relates to the asset management of these networks, appraising condition, location and making strategic decisions as to where replacement schemes will be most financially viable. Utility companies commit to a certain replacement level for government funding – in the water industry for example this occurs every five years with a new Asset Management Plan (AMP). The next one of these starts next year where a commitment has been made to reduce water leakage by 15%.

Which technologies are currently the most popular, what are the trends (both in construction and renovation industry)?
It is almost impossible to say which is the widest used trenchless technology as there are many determining factors – distance used or number of machines in the market for example. However, in the gas market pipe insertion is a very widely used technique as it allows the installation of a new pipe inside an old. The advantage with gas is that this can then be delivered to the consumer in a smaller diameter pipe at higher pressure meaning the product delivery is the same. This is not possible in water where we see lining being increasingly used as a solution for structurally sound pipes to improve quality. There is a focus on the disconnection time for customers for rehabilitation so we have seen a decline in the amount of pipebursting down in place of horizontal directional drilling which is a growing market. Impact moling, auger boring are also always much used accepted techniques with more specialist applications such as pipe ramming rarer. Pipe cleaning is also a growing market with advances in technologies making systems more efficient and cost effective.

What are the latest British innovative solutions or products? Are there any new technologies tested?
We are very proud that many of the UKSTT members are equipment manufacturers who are leading the international field on developing smart networks, robotics and software. The advancements made in the last few years particularly in these fields as well as lining processes, such as LED curing are continually being trialled and approved as acceptable techniques. This is strongly supported by many utility companies who provide manufacturers and suppliers with innovation funding for project development which is a fantastic way of all parties working together for a common acceptable solution.
This has been further supported by the UK government though the Department of International Trade. We are able to gain funding for projects, subsidies for international exhibitions and marketing, advise on developing export markets and bringing in enquiries from Trade Representatives based around the world to create opportunities for British manufacturers and suppliers of trenchless technology equipment.

What kind of records are noted in British trenchless industry?
Records are very subjective! We are always hearing of longer lengths or diameters of installation or rehabilitation being claimed covering all techniques. It is something that's great to hear about as innovation permits and younger engineers build on the knowledge and achievements of the past.
Being 'first' to do something is also meritorious and the track record the UK has in this, going back to the great civil engineering tunnelling projects of Victorian times, right through the development of pipe bursting in the 1980's to the British companies driving innovation in the global markets of today is something we are very proud of.

What does the education (of students and workers) look like, concerning the trenchless industry? Is there a free access to the knowledge?
As a not-for-profit, independent society promoting trenchless technology is one of our core values and I strongly believe that access to free basic education and awareness is pivotal in encouraging engagement and usage of the applications in an accessible non-commercial manner.
We therefore provide free student lectures through our University Outreach program, Technical Lectures to workers at their own companies and providing much information online in an accessible manner, with the philanthropy of our members by carefully re-investing some of the membership fees towards development in the future. Members also get free access to over 1,500 technical papers though the ISTT website.
More specific and detailed events, such as the MasterClass series or Seminars have a fee payable for Continual Professional Development certification although this is often off-set or minimalised by sponsorship.

Is the issue of standards and guidelines for the trenchless industry clear for all the participants of investment process? Are there any lacks?
There is a clear process and access to all related standards through the British Standards Institute (BSI) who generally adopt EU and International Standards. These are updated on a regular basis to reflect the changes within the industry and ensure best practice. Each utility company will then also provide guidelines for installation and this is supported by the UKSTT who provide guidelines for each technique. Our Technical Committee are available to handle any specific requests using the experience and knowledge of our members. Many processes, such as locating buried infrastructure, directional drilling bore plans have now become common practice and the latest developments have been in utilising load cells for the installation of plastic pipes to provide the end client and contractor the security that the product pipe has been installed within the manufacturers guidelines for approval which reduces failure risk.

What role does UKSTT play in the process of standardisation and normalization?  What are the needs with this issue?
The UKSTT has a good relationship with the British Standards Institute and we are approached to provide expert representation on both BSI and International Standards (ISO) relating to trenchless technology. At present we are working on several standards committees in ensuring that the latest and best proven practises and processes are employed when utilising trenchless technology equipment.

UKSTT has operated for 25 years. Please describe the biggest successes of the organization.
We have been fortunate in the UK to have some of the world's most recognised industry experts. They have helped us to grow the society with an involvement we are proud of with the ISTT, the bi-ennial No Dig Live show (in association with Westrade) and our University Outreach Program, educating students. We have expanded this recently into a series of MasterClass events and also have influence at government level on policy decisions. We are proud of being a strong, active society with an august legacy that we are continually looking to improve on to for our members.

What challenges do UKSTT face nowadays?
The main challenge we face today is making the society pro-active and relevant for our members as workplace demands change. We are finding we have better engagement with increasing digital media activity - providing webinars, social media, our You Tube channel and website - as the need for quicker access to information is expected. The member demographic is changing at a rapid rate to a younger audience and it is critical we are well placed to deliver the benefits of membership to them.

What does the British trenchless market need the most nowadays?
We are driven by the demands of the construction and utilities industry who are continually looking for ways to drive down installation costs in a safe and effective manner. This has promoted staggering innovation developments in trenchless technology with smaller, smarter and more cost effective ways of monitoring, locating, installing and repairing new and existing pipes and cables. Cross market co-operation and a willingness to implement these new technologies is our biggest challenge.

In your opinion, will Brexit have an effect on the construction and hence the trenchless market?
Once the final terms of the Brexit agreement are made and implemented this will enable the construction industry to plan for the future. Ultimately the United Kingdom has a growing population and economy so the demand for utility network infrastructure development and maintenance will continue. This will drive the increased use of trenchless technology to give the best delivery for effective environmental and financial impact as well as reducing disruption to the public.

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