Tom Sangster is a Chartered Civil Engineer with 40 years’ experience in civil and geotechnical engineering. His experience in trenchless technology covers all regions of the world during almost 30 years in the sector, firstly with Jason Consultants and more recently as Managing Director of Downley Consultants, a specialist consulting engineer in trenchless technology based in the UK and Switzerland.

What is the UKSTT Technical Enquiry service?
The Technical Enquiry service is free and available to everybody through the UKSTT website. Anybody thinking of trenchless technology for a project, or with a problem for which they think there may be a trenchless solution, for example, can submit an enquiry and we will respond to the best of our ability and knowledge.

How many Technical Enquiries does UKSTT receive?
Last year we received about 40 enquiries. This is a little fewer than in previous years and we would certainly like to have more.

What happens when a Technical Enquiry is received?
Lynn MacLachlan, the Society’s Business Development Manager, receives the enquiries in the first instance. We have a filtering system to decide how to respond to them. If there are no concerns with confidentiality or commercial sensitivity they are circulated to the Society’s corporate members who can then respond if they wish to do so. This is an important benefit for our corporate members, as Paul Henderson, Business Development Manager, Sewer Renovations from Lanes Group says ‘As a Corporate member we see great value in the UKSTT Technical Enquiry Service. The enquiries we receive are valuable and relevant and are forwarded on to the relevant team within Lanes to progress further’

If the enquiry may be commercially sensitive, for example a problem on a particular project, or if it is technically difficult, it is forwarded to me as Chair of the Technical & Education Sub-Committee. I contact the enquirer either for more information or to suggest a solution. This may resolve the query directly or it may then be forwarded to selected members with the right expertise to help the enquirer.

Is it a consultancy service?
No. UKSTT itself cannot give consultancy advice related to specific projects. We do our best to help resolve the enquiry or to forward it to members who can do so. These latter may be consultants, in which case the enquirer may engage them to provide professional advice independently of UKSTT.

From whom are Enquiries typically received?
From a very wide range of people and organisations. Most are from contractors or consulting engineers who find themselves involved in projects where they think trenchless may be a viable option but need to know more about feasibility. Some are looking for specific product information, and some for market information. They cover rehabilitation and new installation as well as inspection and detection. Several relate to health and safety. And quite a few come from abroad.

We can often take knowledge of trenchless technology for granted but it remains relatively unknown across a broad swathe of the civil engineering and utilities sector. The Technical Enquiries are a good way to help people solve problems and also to make the knowledge of trenchless technology and its benefits more widely known.