Pupils’ tunnel vision for water network project

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Budding engineers have been learning all about Scottish Water’s £2.8 million water network upgrade project in Oban.

An operation to drill directly under the railway line from Shuna Terrace to Oban High
School’s sports pitches has begun to allow the installation of a new water main along the footpath at the rear of Dalintard Drive heading towards Glencruitten playing fields.

Pupils from Oban High were VIP guests of the project delivery team Caledonia Water
Alliance (CWA) to see for themselves what is involved in such a large and complex
operation, from the design and planning stage through to the onsite engineering challenges.

Georgina Reid, Scottish Water’s corporate affairs regional manager, said: ‘This is a great
opportunity for pupils studying STEM subjects, like engineering and construction, to get involved with a project that is literally on their doorstep.

‘This particular phase of the operation has been many months in the planning and is
essential for us to help reduce the chance of bursts on our water network and therefore help improve our service to the local community.

‘The pupils have been able to meet the project team and see the drilling machinery in action for themselves.’

Sixth year pupil Mairi Inglis is studying engineering. She said: ‘I thought it was brilliant. It was definitely much better than having to sit in a classroom and have everything explained. Being able to see the drill bits and all of the materials was really interesting.

‘I really like seeing the application of physics. Being able to see how all this actually works and how people actually do it was dead interesting.’

Marcus Lane who is studying electrical engineering has been impressed by the scale of the project and the career opportunities it showcases: ‘I didn’t realise what they were doing at first, so it has given me a great insight into how vast the job is.

‘I am impressed by how they are drilling under the train track and not affecting the trains at all. It has opened my eyes to seeing if they do apprenticeships in what I want to do and that I could do whatever I want within the company.’

Piers Macbeth has embarked on an engineering foundation apprenticeship. He said: ‘It has made me think about a different career choice now. I am not sure what I want to do yet so it is good to see if there is another path I can go down.’

CWA site manager Mark Batten said: ‘It was a real privilege to have the students on the site visit. The interaction with Oban High School has been fantastic from day one and it has been good to share knowledge on the proposals and project progress, so a big thank you to the head teacher, staff, and the students. I would also like to thank our contractors onsite, AG Wilson and GMac who have been excellent with the customers.’

The drilling is being carried out uphill from the edge of the Oban High School all weather pitches to the car park at Shuna Terrace. The car park – which is currently closed – is expected to reopen once tunnelling is complete in November 2021.

Georgina added: ‘We are drilling seven days a week for 14 hours a day to ensure the noisiest and potentially most disruptive part of the operation is completed as quickly as possible.

‘We would like to thank the local community and road users in advance for their patience and understanding while this essential work is carried out.’

The first phase of the project involved the replacement of 1.8km of pipework between
Colonsay Terrace and the junction of McCaig Road and the A816 and was completed earlier this year.