Floods expert heading underground at New York's Grand Central

The very foundations of an iconic New York building are to be scrutinised by a flood prevention expert from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and by a group of engineering students.

Four years ago, much of New York’s subways were flooded when Hurricane Sandy hit ‘the Big Apple’, costing the city billions of dollars in repairs and flood prevention work.


Now, a massive rebuilding of Grand Central Terminal – the world’s biggest railway station with 44 platforms - is going on, and the steps being taken to prevent its underground sections from flooding is an intriguing attraction to Professor Nigel Wright.

“We’re going underneath the bowels of Manhattan Island,” explained the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Technology at DMU.

“They’ve basically dug a big hole and they need to make sure it doesn’t fall in.

“It’s the sort of place that floods if there are hurricanes, just as the subways did in Hurricane Sandy.

“It’s also a very busy transport hub so the other question is how they keep the transport network running during their work.”

Prof Wright’s expertise in prevention engineering saw him comment widely on national television during the Somerset floods of winter 2013/14.

He and a small group of Mechanical Engineering students will be donning hard hats to tour the Grand Central project as part of the #DMUglobal trip to New York next week involving 1,000 staff and students from a variety of courses.

“Just the scale of the project is something which I think will fascinate me,” added Prof Wright, “and for the students, it’s about them seeing engineering work in progress.”

The Grand Central project is similar to the decade-long revamp that transformed King’s Cross and St Pancras stations in London and will offer invaluable lessons for the students and aid their future employability.

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Prof Wright said: “The aim with #DMUglobal is to give our students some international experiences and to broaden their horizons.

“One of the things we study in the School of Engineering is the management aspect. You have to work out where the critical points of any major project are so that you do not waste money by having teams of people waiting around because another part hasn’t been completed yet.

“The way we teach our students here makes it easier for them to get a job, and the international experiences they get help hugely with that.

“When interviewing someone for a job, you want them to tell you a story. If they can tell you ‘I went underneath Grand Central Station’ and talk about the engineering aspects to it, there’s their story.”
Posted on Wednesday 28th December 2016

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