When Alan Runacres, a director of Halcrow, retired in March a large number of Halcrow staff, past and present, attended to wish Alan well after 44 years with the company. Alan’s wife Vivien, and their two daughters, Danielle and Lorette, were there too.

Alan joined Sir William Halcrow & Partners in 1966 from school as a sandwich student and during the next five years worked on remedial works to spoil heaps, the feasibility of light towers in the north sea and the design of the Royal Sovereign Light Tower at Littlehampton and projects connected with the Reservoir Safety Act. Alan graduated from City University in 1971, with a first class honours degree, and was awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers Graduate Prize in 1971.

After graduation Alan worked on complex structural and FE analyses on the Merrison Appraisal of Box Girder Bridges. The Deira Shindagah cut and cover tunnel in Dubai followed, together with the responsibility of co-ordinating the E&M and civil works. His first real tunnelling project was the design of the reconstruction of London Underground’s Strand Station and later on the site supervision. Alan achieved his membership of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1975.

For the next four years Alan then led a team on the design of the Ahmed Hamdi Road Tunnel beneath the Suez Canal, Egypt, and he was also responsible for the E&M design and co-ordination with the civil works.

Alan was promoted to a senior engineer in 1979 at the early age of 32, and provided specialist advice on the ventilation for several proposed road tunnels in Hong Kong. He also worked on the feasibility study for a major road tunnel crossing of the River Thames.

With the downturn in civil construction, in the early 1980s, Alan moved to the Hong Kong Office in 1982, under the impression that he would be working on a tunnel project. His projects were the design of a multi-storey luxury residential development, the design and supervision of a public housing development to accommodate approximately 22,000 people and a feasibility study for a 500 hectare housing resettlement in Brunei.

He returned in 1983 and worked on the feasibility of the Great Belt crossing in Denmark, the design of sewer tunnels in the Royal Docks in London, emergency remedial works for London Underground, the East London River Crossing and redevelopment works at Liverpool Station for the Post Office Railway. The detailed design for port works at Stone Marshes lightened the tunnelling workload.

Alan was promoted to principal engineer in 1986 and implemented the Quality Assurance Policy in the Tunnels Department. He was project engineer for a number of major projects including Crossrail, the East London Rail Study, London Underground works at Victoria Station and the Jubilee Line, the rail link into Stansted Airport, preliminary design of the cut and cover tunnels for the East London River Crossing, safe guarding works for the Post Office and British Telecom and an audit for Eurotunnel of the ventilation and auxiliary services for the Channel Tunnel.

Alan was appointed chief engineer for tunnels in 1991 and a director later that year with the responsibility for soft ground tunnels.

Over the last 20 years Alan’s role has been partly management related and partly project related. He was head of the tunnels department from 1994 to 1999. He has been project director, or provided technical advice, for many of Halcrow’s major tunnelling and railway projects, including the early stages of Crossrail from Westbourne Bridge to Tottenham Court Station, the East London River Crossing, Rockcliffe Gardens and Plumstead road tunnels, the East London Line, London’s Northern Docks Drainage, tunnels for the Bristol Bulk Handling Terminal, Northern Island Railway, works connected with the DLR and Northern Line direct link, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Bangkok Blue Line and preliminary design for the MRTA, Kuala Lumpur PUTRA LRT and Brickfields development, Maliakos road crossing, Manila Lines 1 and 2; and works in the UK including Woolwich Rail crossing, DLR to Lewisham, and other works for London Underground.

Alan cared about his staff and led them to ensure that they always got the right solution for a project. Likewise the staff respected Alan as did the industry. He was a great asset to the firm. He led from the front, but he always said that it was the work and effort put in by the team that made a successful project. Alan in retirement is unlikely to be continuing his engineering career, he can rest on his considerable achievements!

Alan Runacres and his wife Vivien