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Sun November 28 2021

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HS2 rebar row rumbles on

11 Nov British producers of steel reinforcement believe that HS2 is set to allow more uncertified, specification-breaching rebar to be used on the flagship government project.

Sendin rebar
Sendin rebar

It was reported last month that HS2 Ltd had approved the use of rebar from a fabricator in France that does not have the necessary UK approvals. HS2 said at the time that there were extenuating circumstances and it was only a small amount.

But according to the British Association of Reinforcement, HS2 and its main contractors are in discussions for reinforcement supply from other French fabricators who also do not have approval that they fully meet British Standards.

HS2 argues that it is having to go to French fabricators because the UK sector cannot meet their requests. This is denied by UK fabricators who complain that there was a lack of meaningful early engagement by HS2 with the UK supply chain, which is why HS2’s requirements could not be met.

HS2 has yet to explain why it does not at least use imports from suppliers that are certified with CARES (the UK Certification Authority For Reinforcing Steel). The CARES database shows dozens of certified suppliers across mainland Europe, including seven in France.

Two thousand tonnes of uncertified reinforcing steel is being used in tunnel ventilation shafts by Align, a joint venture led by French firm Bouygues that is boring under the Chilterns. Client organisation HS2 Ltd approved Align’s use of specification-breaching steel from French fabricator Sendin after finding no UK supplier that could fulfil the order.

As previously reported, to meet British Standards and, therefore meet the approval requirements of UK CARES, all hot rolled and cold worked steel bars should conform to BS EN 10080 and BS 4449 Grades B500B or B500C. Reinforcement should be cut and bent in accordance with BS 8666. Similarly, the specification for welding of reinforcement is very specific BS EN ISO 17660 which calls for the demonstration of satisfactory trial joint performance. This is the assurance given by all accredited fabricators.

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Sendin is certified to meet the French AFCAB steel reinforcement certification scheme, which UK producers consider to be not as robust as the UK schemes.

The British Association of Reinforcement (BAR) claims that the use of rebar that is not CARES compliant raises genuine design and safety concerns because the AFCAB standard Procedure D33 accepts lower minimum yield stress than British Standard. Supplying AFCAB compliant material would compromise designers’ assumptions in terms of characteristic strength and factors of safety. Material produced to the AFCAB standard has a significantly lower sampling and testing frequency than the requirements of British Standards. AFCAB compliant material has a significantly lesser fatigue performance requirement. This would be of concern to a designer considering dynamic loading in their design, BAR says.

With regards to reinforcement welding CARES Appendix 11 & 12 work to the requirements of BS 8548 under which the requirements for welding are more stringent in every area of quality assurance and quality control when compared to the AFCAB Procedure E15, 1 & 2, it says.

BAR chairman Stephen Elliott said: “HS2 argues that the UK does not have the capacity to provide the reinforcement as required. However, BAR members report a lack of meaningful early engagement with HS2. Had HS2 fully engaged with the UK reinforcement sector then UK fabricators would have made the necessary investment to enable additional capacity. The lack of proper early engagement is simply not the way to work with your supply chain.

“As a result HS2 is importing reinforcement from France that is non-compliant and fails to fully meet the more stringent strength, testing and quality requirements of British Standards. Furthermore, it fails to meet the project’s own sustainability requirements.”

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd said: “HS2 Ltd has engaged extensively with the British steel industry over the last five years to ensure that it is in the best position possible to compete for contracts to build Britain’s new high speed rail network. The success of our engagement is underlined by the fact that 28 of the 29 reinforcement fabrication contracts at Tier 3 have been awarded to UK-based companies, and the only foreign firm, Sendin, is fabricating British-made steel. Sendin is seeking to re-establish its CARES certification, which lapsed during the time it was not supplying the UK market.”

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