Qualter Hall lands Thames Barrier contract

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A YORKSHIRE-based engineering firm is doing its bit to ensure that Londoners are protected from flooding.

Barnsley-based Qualter Hall has signed a major contract for work on the Thames Barrier. It has secured the work in association with Volker Stevin.

The Thames Barrier is one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world.

The Environment Agency runs and maintains the barrier, which spans 520 metres across the River Thames near Woolwich. It protects 125 square kilometres of central London from flooding caused by tidal surges.

It became operational in 1982 and has 10 steel gates that can be raised into position across the Thames. When raised, the main gates stand as high as a five-storey building and as wide as the opening of Tower Bridge. Each main gate weighs 3,300 tonnes

The work secured by Qualter Hall includes an oil hydraulics system for a gate arm synchronisation pilot trial (GASPT) on piers three and four at gate Golf on the barrier, and a drive equipment package for a shift and latch mechanism on gates Charlie and Delta on pier seven. The system will undergo a six-month trial.

Qualter Hall was founded in 1860 and for most of its history provided services for the deep mining industry.

In recent years, the company, which has £18m turnover and 135 staff, has diversified into specialist manufacturing sectors, to help it to fight off the threat from overseas competitors.

Recent contract wins include work to refurbish the Hull Tidal Surge Barrier, which is a vital part of the flood defence system.

The firm can trace its roots back to 1860 when George Bower, a moulder living in Lancashire, was granted a patent for a piston. Unable to achieve commercial success on his own, and requiring practical help, he joined forces with a blacksmith friend, John Qualter and also a young engine fitter, Edward Hall.

The American Civil war depressed the Lancashire cotton trade, leading to widespread unemployment. As a result, Mr Qualter and Mr Hall moved to Barnsley, where, in 1867, the firm established its manufacturing base. It has remained in the town ever since.

In recent months, Tata Steel also commissioned Qualter Hall to build an upgraded replacement skip car winch for the Port Talbot steelworks.

The work is taking place over 10 months and will include design, manufacture, testing, site installation and commissioning work.