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Stadium headaches, horrors in the laboratory and other nightmares


Sadly, not all of the projects of the last decade will make the cut. Finished structures may be well loved, but their genesis may have been more painful as sites descended into delays, cost over runs and industrial disputes.

Take the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. Welsh sports fans may flock there now but former staff of contractor Laing will look less fondly upon the project. The works began to hit trouble when neighbouring Cardiff Athletic Club refused permission for demolition of the north stand of Cardiff Arms Park, the previous stadium on the site, as it shared a party wall with the club's own ground.

This caused a major design rethink, a disaster on a project that was procured on a fixed price basis.

Starting late, the project was dogged by problems throughout the build that culminated in horrific losses for Laing and contributed to the decision to sell the construction division to Ray O'Rourke for just £1.

Another of Laing's crisis projects was the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington.

Like the Diamond Synchrotron (see above) the NPL had to be built to a staggering degree of accuracy. But unlike Costain, Laing failed to hit these targets and ended up ducking out of the project as the company took a £60 million hit.

But Laing is not the only firm to have hit trouble over the last decade. The Jubilee Line Extension, built by a range of Britain's top cont ractors, may well be an excellent example of civil engineering but the cost overruns, delayed opening and fraught relations with M&E suppliers have kicked it into the 'blunders' category.

While Gateshead's Millennium Bridge makes the list, its London counterpart, the Millennium Bridge across the Thames between Bankside and Blackfriars fails to make the cut. While the design of the bridge certainly pushed the envelope and has taken bridge construction forwards in leaps and bounds it will always be remembered as the br idge that wobbled. On open ing in June 2000 the effects of thousands of feet walking in time across the br idge caused it to sway. The previously unrecognised movement led to the bridge being closed while designers Arup came up with a solution.

A further £5 million was spent and active and passive dampers were introduced to counteract the effect, allowing the br idge to reopen in February 2002.

Finally there is Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower. The elegant sail form of this viewing platform standing high over the city belies an epic scale of problems the project suffered from.

Planned from 1995, work did not actually start on site until 2001 and was completed earlier this year. Not only was the scheme late but it also massively bust its budget, coming in £11 million more than expected at £35.6 million.