When Gibraltar's airfield approached its due date for major planned refurbishment works and upgrade, Ramboll was appointed to provide management, technical and financial services to the project, which was the first full runway re-surfacing in 20 years.
The British Ministry of Defence owns and operates the runway, and the Government of Gibraltar operates the passenger terminal. These works have contributed to Gibraltar’s continuing economic development ensuring the future safe operation of the airfield as a civilian airport for commercial flights and demonstrated the MoD’s commitment to maintaining RAF Gibraltar as a base for UK defence operations.
The runway is famous for crossing an operational highway, Winston Churchill Avenue, which is currently the only road linking Gibraltar to mainland Spain. It must be closed to traffic during flight arrivals and departures, which can be more than 15 times a day.
Despite to obvious challenges of coordinating the main traffic inflow with the airfield works, and of constant night-time working, over 75,000 man hours were expended on the project without a reportable Health & Safety incident.
Another major consideration was the inherent logistical challenges to manage and coordinate the supply of all raw materials, plant and equipment by road, sea and air. Due to the lack of onsite storage and laydown areas, all deliveries had to be scheduled to coordinate with the project works programme.
Assessments and surveys
Initially Ramboll provided technical and financial assessment of a number of refurbishment options, from an on-going maintenance programme to a complete refurbishment and upgrade of the airfield pavement and airfield ground lighting (AGL) systems.
Following definition and agreement of the preferred option, Ramboll undertook site surveys and investigations and developed the Tender Design for the refurbishment project. This included the design of geometry, pavements, AGL, power supply and pit and duct infrastructure.
As part of the runway upgrade a particularly high specification of topographical survey was required for the 1829m long runway. Ramboll's Geomatics team carried out extensive surveys throughout the airport complex and adjacent to the international boundary.
'Total station' methods provided fine detailing including all airfield markings and lighting locations. Close coordination with Air Traffic Control was necessary at all times due to the airfield remaining operational throughout the surveying activities.
Ramboll was the Project Manager of the resurfacing works, providing tender management; project coordination and liaison and Clerk of Works site quality monitoring, to inspect the progress and quality of the work. The construction work was carried out during night-time possessions and the runway was handed back each day for operational use. A key objective was to minimize disruption to the community.
Ramboll's Gibraltar Director and Project Manager for the works, Jack Noble said: “It went extremely well; the project itself was not particularly technically demanding although in terms of logistics and operationally, it was very challenging requiring close liaison and coordination of several key stakeholders and agencies. I am very happy with the way the team managed the potential for disruption to the local community, especially in relation to Winston Churchill Avenue, and the operation of the airfield. The project was completed two weeks ahead of programme and within budget, which is a fantastic achievement”.