Dynamic D-DRILL duo help in bid to get tunnel reopened in Wales


A dynamic diamond drilling duo has been praised for their role in plans to reopen of a tunnel in Wales that will benefit the whole community.

The team at D-Drill’s South Wales office in Bridgend was called in to find a way through a section of wall inside the Rhondda Tunnel to allow detailed examinations to take place.

It’s part of a project by a group of volunteers who are working to reopen the tunnel, which is the longest disused tunnel in Wales at 3,443 yards. They want to put it back into public use for walking and cycling.

The original construction took over five years and was completed in 1890 as the tunnel served the steam railway network. It was closed temporarily in 1968 but has never reopened.

So in order to reopen the tunnel, a range of scoping and investigative work has been carried out. A wall deep inside the Rhondda Tunnel needed to be compromised in order for Balfour Beattie to carry out a detailed examination.

That’s when D-Drill got the call and experienced engineers Alun Burnell and Gary Robinson were tasked with breaking through to the other side.

First, they had to find out how thick the concrete wall actually was and they discovered it was over two meters thick thanks to the drilling of a 100mm pilot hole, using a Weka DK32.

After working out that vital piece of information, the duo decided that the best solution was to stitch drill through the solid concrete wall using a Weka DK32.

A Hilti TE60 was utilized to bolt to the wall and a Hilti TE1000 breaker was used to remove the solid lump of concrete in the center where the wall had been stitch-drilled.

But the job was not without complication, there was a water ingress into the exact area of the tunnel where the pair were working with levels varying from the ‘normal to the ridiculous’ according to those watching on because of torrential rain.

Alun and Gary battled on despite the freezing cold water that covered their feet and after seven days of drilling 14 separate 200mm holes, they finally broke through.

That meant that inspectors could return to assess the tunnel and deliver a full report on the viability of the plan to reopen the tunnel.

Steve Mackey, the chairman of the Rhondda Tunnel Society – the organization behind the project – wrote to D-Drill to pay tribute to the team’s efforts in carrying out the difficult task.

He said: “I thought I would drop you an email regarding two of your employees working on our project in the Rhondda Tunnel, Gary Robinson and Alun Burnell.

“These guys had to drill through a thick concrete wall in the tunnel itself. The wall was thick, in fact over two meters of solid concrete.

“They operated the machinery as if it was an extension of their bodies. It was fascinating. Every time they surfaced, they were soaked to the skin, wellies full of water and absolutely shattered.

“However, they always got up after their lunch and descended back into the tunnel to complete the Job with incredible enthusiasm.

“I have worked with many people in my life, but I doff my hat to Gary and Alun of D-Drill. How two guys can work in freezing cold water for four hours is beyond me. I want to thank you for sending these two guys to do the work for us. They are a credit to your company.

“As the wall will have to be completely removed in the future, I, as the Chairman will be recommending D-Drill for the job.”

Steve Furley, manager of D-Drill’s South Wales branch, said: “We pride ourselves in going above and beyond for clients.

“This is a major project that could bring significant public benefits and we were very pleased to be called in to carry out this piece of work.

“Alun and Gary worked tirelessly to ensure they got the job done and no amount of water and cold feet was going to stop them!

“It’s a great example of how D-Drill combines both technical expertise and experience with a sheer determination to always find a way.”