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May 2, 2012

Maintenance on a Broad scale


Reform Metrac Bank Tractors and the The Broadland Flood Alleviation Project

Reform Metrac Bank Tractors

The Broadland Flood Alleviation Project is a 20-year programme of flood defence improvement works and maintenance within the tidal areas of the rivers Yare, Bure, Waveney and their tributaries. The work, which involves maintaining up to 250km of flood-bank in any one year throughout the Broads, started in 2001 and is being undertaken by Broadland Environmental Services Limited, a joint venture company comprising Civil Engineering Contractor BAM Nuttall Ltd Engineering and Environmental Consultancy Halcrow Group Ltd, on behalf of the Environment Agency.

The banks are basically an earth flood barrier next to tidal rivers consisting in the main of soft soil, clays and peat and the aim is to minimise the risk of banks breaching when there is a major flood event and they overtop. This is achieved through providing a 2m+ wide crest and rear slope with a gradient of c.1 in 3.The project area is sub-divided into 40 discreet compartments of varying lengths. Improvement works are undertaken on 3-4 compartments per year over the first 10 years of the project. Improved banks are seeded at the end of the construction season; usually September. It is then important to cut the banks 2-3 times the following year to control weeds and promote the tillering of the grass. All banks in the project area are cut at least once from the end of March to October.

Jeremy Halls Principal Consultant, Ecology & Environmental Management for Halcrow Group Ltd who is responsible for the grass cutting programme commented “some sites are only cut once whilst others may receive up to three cuts. This predominantly consists of cutting the grass on the crest and sides of the flood-bank. If there are problems with weeds or scrub developing on the area between the bank and the dyke then this will also be cut. The vegetation is cut in order to control weeds and encourage the growth of healthy grass which, in turn, promotes stability. When the embankments are overtopped, long grass can result in root structure deterioration and instability increasing erosion to parts of the embankment which can result in widespread flooding. With less vegetation on the bank it is also easier to spot leaks and other problems with the bank during the annual condition surveys. Annual weeds equal bare ground and erosion in winter flood season, so these need to be controlled. Regularly cut grass also makes it easier to see leaks and rabbit or rat holes during an annual condition survey. Cutting has the added benefit of improving the footpath for walkers”

The mainstays of the grass cutting fleet on the project are two Reform Hydrostatic Metrac H7X Bank tractors supplied to Bam Nuttall by A J Scambler and working in tandem with front and rear side-arm mounted Muthing MU-H 200 and McConnel PA 3430 respectively. Prior to their arrival walk behind mowers had been employed. Jeremy continued “the annual maintenance of vegetation will continue to be managed over the next ten years and where possible the embankments will be cut on the top and both slopes. In areas where weed growth is an issue the vegetation cut will be more comprehensive. Where it is likely that there will be nesting birds or known reptile populations then the timing and methods of cutting with be revised accordingly. The programme to increase crest width means that we are able to use the Reform Metrac H7X which is a critically safe machine. They are safe, manoeuvrable and well-suited to working on the banks and on projects such as this and have made delivery of the annual maintenance programme so much more efficient and cost-effective”

Ed Scambler of A J Scambler commented “the Reform Metrac Bank Tractors are such versatile machines suited to the widest possible range of grounds maintenance tasks. We are certainly seeing an increase in demand based on their multi-functionality and lifetime cost benefits. The Broadland flood alleviation project is the perfect demonstration of the Metrac’s value for the maintenance of large areas of difficult terrain utilising the balanced weight distribution and crab steer function”

Simon Richard, the UK Agent for the Reform range concluded “the Metrac with various deck options offers the local Authority and professional contractor user the ideal combination to enable the operator to work safely at angles of up to 45 degrees”