I found the Channel 4 programme, The Tallest Tower – Building The Shard, which aired last week, grimly fascinating. Whether a slant had been put on the nature of the construction by the programme’s producers or not, I cannot say, but the overall impression I got of the development was one of unseemly, urgent haste. A particular example was the fact that windy days – on which construction on the upper levels had to cease – did not appear to be budgeted for. Days were ‘lost’ due to high wind, and construction had to ‘catch up’, despite the fact that wind is quite a common phenomenon in the British Isles (indeed the site manager at one point says ‘if the wind blows, we’re stuffed.’) There was no slack, apparently, in the construction schedule.
Another example comes during the building of the foundations of the Shard, about 18 minutes into the programme. We are informed that because construction is ‘at a standstill’, the builders have to ‘go for broke’ with a record-breaking concrete pour. This involved bringing ‘a vast amount of concrete in'; an amount that would normally be poured in a day was poured every hour, continuously, for 36 hours. In just this period, 700 concrete mixers arrived at the site.
This was, we are told, a ‘giant logistical operation, run with military precision’. Unfortunately this ‘precision’ did not seem to extend to an assessment of how realistic it would be to get this number of lorries to the site on time. Mark Devlin, the logistics manager of the site, says
London is a busy city, so let’s just say, six or seven out of ten [lorries] are on time.
That sounds impressive, but what it means in practice is that a third of the lorries arriving at the site were unable to meet the deadlines they had been set. I don’t think that’s because the lorries were pootling about, or their drivers were having cups of tea, or were waving ladies across the road in front of them. That’s not my experience of how lorries are driven in London, anyway.
What this titbit of information from Mark Devlin tells us is that the deadlines were not realistic, and drivers were presumably having to race to meet them. London is, and always has been, ‘a busy city’, and the way the deadlines were set should have taken account of that fact, and not left wafer-thin margins for delay.
David Vilaseca was killed on 9th February 2010, at the junction of Tower Bridge Road and Druid Street, Southwark by a Ron Smith Recycling lorry turning left. It is unclear whether this vehicle was involved in the Shard construction, but that is a plausible destination, given the left turn onto Druid Street.
Muhammed Haris Ahmed was killed in Weston Street on the 9th March 2010 by a Keltbay tipper truck, servicing the Shard.
David Poblet was killed at the junction of Tanner Street and Tooley Street in Bermondsey on 22nd March 2011 by a skip lorry – I should stress, however, there is no confirmation that this vehicle was heading to the Shard site.
Ellie Carey was killed at the junction of Abbey Street and Tower Bridge Road, Southwark on Friday 2nd December 2011, by an HGV turning left. At the time, I remember hearing this was a lorry delivering glass to the Shard, but as with the lorries that killed David Vilaseca and David Poblet, I cannot find confirmation. Again, the direction of the lorry suggests the Shard as a possible destination.
A left-turning Keltbray lorry servicing the Shard was also involved in this incident
at the junction of Borough High Street and Great Dover Street, in which a female cyclist suffered a broken ankle.
I can’t help noticing either that this lorry
which drove over a cyclist at the junction of Joiner Street and London Bridge on 18th October 2011, is turning into the Shard site, carrying what appear to be steel girders for the upper section of the Shard.
These are just the incidents I can recall – doubtless there were more in the area.
Whether the deadlines set by the construction companies caused any of these drivers to hurry, and consequently to pay slightly less attention to the people around their vehicles than they might otherwise have done, is of course a matter for speculation. But a reasonable inference can be made.