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A cast iron success

Richard Peers describes the excitement and fear of discovering a Brunel designed bridge.

I was the project manager for the Paddington Bridge project, which was finished last year.

We started on site in 2003 and the biggest event was discovering one of the structures we were about to demolish was in fact one of Brunel’s first cast-iron bridges.

It was a career-defining moment. We had gone through the proper process of running risk workshops, planning and carrying out consultations to the point that everything had been signed off to say there was not anything there of any particular interest.

We were about to start demolition when a historian from English Heritage walked in with a sketch of a bridge he had found while writing a book about Brunel. I took one look at it and realised it was the bridge we were about to knock down. It was a genuine find rather than a cock-up. It was a very rare type of Brunel bridge, built in 1834.

The excitement on the historian’s face was unbelievable and the look of fear on mine must have told a story – I had found something that would cost us and set us back a long time, although in the end it did not cause any delays.

We had a series of workshops with all the stakeholders looking at what we could do. We finally agreed to take it apart and store it offsite for future use.

It was right at the start of the job and it got us all working together as a team. So we turned something that could have really upset the project into a positive.

We got great publicity from it and received a lot of support.

Richard Peers is director of Capita Symonds London management team. He was speaking to Mark Alexander