The River Foyle HDD Crossing – the 660m horizontal directionally drilled (HDD) gas pipeline crossing under the River Foyle in Derry, Northern Ireland – was one of the most high-profile projects in Northern Ireland in recent memory, and included many stakeholders, such as the local community, the environment agency, NI Railways and the local council.

Here, the Kier team behind the project – Declan McParland, project manager, Declan Carlin project engineer, Alan Burgess, senior quantity surveyor and Ronan Peace, SHEA manager – discuss how early engagement with stakeholders was key to the project’s success.

Ronan begins: “The local community was a huge consideration for us all through the works. The location of the project – we were no more than 3-4 metres away from the closest house – meant it was crucial to get the local council and residents engaged with the project as early as possible.”

Declan Carlin agrees: “It was really important to us to do the right thing for the local area. During the construction phase, we worked closely with local resident groups, sometimes speaking to them a couple of times a week, to ensure there were no surprises as the project progressed.”

Declan McParland reiterates that the project team was determined to be sensitive to the local community: “It was important for us that the works were as unobtrusive as possible. We worked with our client to create a bespoke hoarding that showed the river as it was before the project began, meaning residents had the same view of the river they’d always enjoyed.”

“And when we had to remove a group of trees during the works, we made sure they were well taken care of, before replanting them in the same spot at the end of the project, for residents to enjoy.”

When asked how that approach translated for other local stakeholders. Declan Carlin says: “We carried the mantra of no surprises with us throughout the project, and it became hugely important – not only for the local schools and businesses, but also for NI Railways, with the Belfast-Derry rail line just metres away from the project. Our continuous surveys of the area ensured minimal disruption for rail passengers.

Alan says: “We worked closely with the client all the way through the project – from the very earliest stage – to overcome any challenges quickly and smoothly, which made sure the project ran to time.”

Ronan adds: “We invited the council to site on a regular basis to monitor noise levels, and we were delighted to reach the end of the project with no complaints. We also engaged early and often with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, to ensure we were meeting all the appropriate guidelines for minimising the impact on local wildlife and to show them that all controls were in place.”

So, would the team say that more communication with the community contributed to the project’s success?

Declan Carlin says: “Absolutely. It felt like we really brought the community along with us on the project, and they took a genuine interest in what we were doing. We invited the local schools – including engineering students – to site to get a closer look at what we were doing and were really encouraged by the interest they showed.”

Alan concludes: “All the way through the project, we planned ahead and communicated early to make sure there were no surprises; that’s true for us, our client and the local community. We promised – and delivered – as much certainty as possible for everyone, and I think that was instrumental in our reaching the end of the project with no complaints.”

And the team’s involvement with the local community didn’t end with the project’s completion. Since then, the team has raised £1,250 for the local Foyle Hospice through selling calendars with photos of the project, and recently invited students from Thornhill School to site to bury a time capsule, which will be opened in 50 years’ time.