Students get valuable learning opportunity during investment in Oban’s water network

12th October 2022

A major investment in the water network for Oban, Argyll and Bute has been completed by the Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA) for Scottish Water.

This £4.6million investment to upgrade Oban’s water supply was finished in time for the summer tourist season by the CWA, an alliance between Morrison Water Services, a part of M Group Services and AECOM for Scottish Water.

Delivering improved resilience and lifespan for Scottish Water’s assets and infrastructure to meet the challenge of climate change, the project has also provided an exceptional case study of the benefits of strong, positive stakeholder engagement in the local community, particularly with Oban High School.

Together with the completion of a new £29million water treatment works in Oban three years ago, the new two miles of pipes will ensure many thousands of people can enjoy clear, fresh drinking water for many years to come.

This is just part of Scottish Water’s major investment across the country, so its customers can be confident in receiving a robust and reliable water supply.

With the population of Oban increasing threefold during the tourist season, completing the work in time for the arrival of visitors to the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ was critical for the CWA. The team worked hard and often in challenging circumstances and conditions to deliver on time.

The project included boring a technically challenging tunnel under an important railway line from the edge of Oban High School’s all-weather pitches to the carpark at Shuna Terrace. Using round-the-clock drilling, this delicate operation was completed without disrupting train services or local Scottish Water customers.

The new pipework stretches from Colonsay Terrace and the junction of McCaig Road and the A816 right up to the Tullich water treatment works. Work began in November 2020.

Mark Batten, CWA Site Manager, said: “It has been a pleasure delivering this project in Oban. We had some challenges to overcome including drilling under the railway but looking back the only thing I would change is the weather.

“Local residents have been a pleasure to work with and I would like to thank them for their patience.”

With works taking place so close to Oban High School, the CWA team were keen to involve pupils from the start of the project, as part of its commitment to promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

As well as taking project updates into the school, pupils were able to visit the site and see for themselves what is involved in such a large and complex operation from the design and planning stage through to the onsite engineering challenges.

(2) In and out of the classroom the CWA has created learning opportunities

Mark added: “It has been hugely rewarding to involve pupils from the high school from day one, sharing knowledge on the proposals and project progress and a real privilege to welcome some of the students to our site.

“We are very grateful to Peter Bain, Head Teacher, the teachers and students for their co-operation and for sharing their views on the proposals and project progress. Our contractors on site, AG Wilson and GMac, were also truly customer-focused throughout this project.”

Mark and Paul Milligan, CWA Communications Manager, gave presentations to three high school classes, highlighting the importance of high standards of health and safety on site, showing the students the technical drawings for the project and explaining what jobs are needed to deliver a project of this scale from start to finish.

The visit to site brought textbooks to life for those studying engineering and construction. Students all donned full PPE so they could see drilling machinery in action, on their school doorstep. Feedback from the students was hugely positive. Three students shared their thoughts on the experience offered to them by the CWA.

Sixth former, Mairi Inglis is studying engineering. She said: “I thought it was brilliant. It was definitely much better than having to sit in a classroom and have everything explained. Being able to see the drill bits and all the materials was really interesting. I really like seeing the application of physics. Being able to see how all this actually works and how people actually do it was dead interesting.”

Marcus Lane, an electrical engineering student, was impressed by the scale of the project and the career opportunities it showcased.

He said: “It has given me a great insight into how vast the job is. I am impressed by how they are drilling under the train track and not affecting the trains at all. It has opened my eyes to seeing if the CWA and Morrison Water Services do apprenticeships in what I want to do. I liked that I could do whatever I want within the company.”

Piers Macbeth is taking an engineering foundation apprenticeship. He said: “It has made me think about a different career choice now. I am not sure what I want to do yet so it is good to see if there is another path I can go down.”

Oban High School Head Teacher Peter Bain said: “I really appreciate the fantastic partnership we established with Scottish Water and their delivery partners in the CWA. would really like to thank everyone involved in the project for working so closely in partnership with the school.

“When faced with such a mammoth operation on your doorstep there is always a worry about what will be involved or what will be left behind. But we need not have been concerned as nothing was too much for the team, any problems were quickly dealt with and the site has been further enhanced following the works undertaken.

“We are also immensely grateful for pupils being given the opportunity to work with professionals from design and engineering, learning about what is involved on a project on this scale. It has greatly enhanced their understanding of the vocational subjects they were involved in and better prepared them for the next steps in their careers.

“I would like to thank every member of the team for all of the additional support they have given, their professionalism and dedication.”

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