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Sheet piles have limits

LETTERS Prize letter

Sir, Many contractors will be well aware of the recent increases in steel prices and the continuing effect this has had on the cost of sheet piles.

But the demise of Corus' sheet pile manufacturing arm at the beginning of last year when the price increases were starting to bite has further exacerbated the supply situation.

I understand one of the reasons for Corus'withdrawal from the market was its inability to roll wider pile sections being introduced by Continental manufacturers. These wider profiles (up to 750 mm girth) are marketed as being more economic than the older, narrower piles (600 mm girth), which are the industry standard in this country.

Manufacturers seem to be oblivious to the requirements of the end user and the people installing the piles, and only seem to target design engineers and the ultimate clients for their marketing campaigns.

Fussey Piling, together with most of its competitors, chiefly installs piles with either telescopic leader rigs with vibratory hammers or with 'silent and vibration-free' jacking techniques.These rigs are generally designed to install 600 mm-wide piles.The telescopic leader rig's powerful vibrator will tend to tear the tops of the wider pile sections when the driving becomes stiff, while the 'silent and vibration-free'Still Worker can only drive 500 mm-wide or 600 mm-wide piles.

My belief is that there has to be an optimum limit to the wider and deeper section and my feeling is that 600 mm by 450 mm is the right place to stop. Obviously, a pile 3.0 m wide and 2.0 deep would be very efficient, but it would be impossible to drive and would take up too much space for all but the largest sites.

The sheet pile manufacturers seem to believe that the only limit is the production of the steel section - if they can make it, plant firms must find a way to install it.

This cannot be the case.For instance, the Tosa Still Worker weighs about 9.1 tonnes. If the lever arm was to increase from 600 mm to, say,740 mm, this could double the weight of the hammer and further limit its use in tight, city-centre jobs - the very situation for which it was designed.

David Jones, director, Fussey Piling, Kingham