Series following crane operators across the UK. This episode sees the pressure mounting as the teams face a demanding 24/7 schedule and jobs run into trouble across the UK.
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Ainscough is Britain's biggest mobile crane hire company.
At dawn every day, their cranes crisscross the country.
All right, let's go for it.
Apart from my family, this is the second love of my life.
So family and then cranes.
They lift everything...
Nice and steady.
This way, mate. Get him round.
..from wind turbines to priceless art works.
I'm feeling a little bit nervous.
-What if it slides out?
It won't. It's not going to slide out.
Their life's in our hands up there.
One wrong move up there from us and it's game over for them.
24 hours a day...
-You've just got to get it right, cos if you don't,
it could pull the crane over.
It's got to go.
..seven days a week.
Don't pull it, John!
You won't get me up there, that's for sure.
They keep Britain lifting.
Yep, happy on the hoist.
Not many people can say they've had the opportunity to work
with a ship like that.
We're a small cog in a big machine,
which helps make this country better.
But facing increased competition and having invested millions
in the latest cranes, the company is at a crossroads.
If we don't deliver, it's a bit like football management.
I guess we have some conversations about
whether you get to stay for next season.
Do I have a few sleepless nights thinking about that? Yes, I do.
Ainscough's HQ in Preston.
The hub of a nationwide empire.
In the true sense of the word, big boys' toys.
You play with these things when you were a kid and um...
we've got 450 odd of them
running up and down the country every day.
But for commercial director, Gareth Jones,
running a mobile crane-hire company isn't child's play.
We've got over 1,000 people, 29 locations,
right from the north of Scotland, right down to the south coast.
From a revenue point of view, we are a £120 million organisation,
so that's a big old turnover. That's a lot of jobs.
Yeah, we're a pretty big deal in the crane world.
But in the worst economic downturn for a generation,
keeping the firm on top isn't easy.
If you're the market leader, you can only go one way
and that's not something that's an option for us.
The company's received almost £100 million of investment
and they need results.
We've got new owners now and they want to take the business
back to the heights that it was at at the peak of the market.
That's challenging. We've got to get more business, more revenue.
We don't ever want to see a yard full of cranes, so if you see
a yard full of cranes, and a yard full of trucks,
you know you're not busy.
And if you're not busy, you're not earning revenue.
If you're not earning revenue, you're not making money.
The crane gang will lift anything, no matter how unusual.
And today, a team are at the Falkirk wheel in central Scotland,
to transport a work of art that has been sold to a private buyer.
It's a unique challenge for Falkirk lift supervisor, John Hollis.
15 tonne, solid granite,
so it's quite a substantial lift for us.
Obviously, one of its kind, so we need to be very,
very careful that we don't do any damage whatsoever to it.
What we have here is quite a sharp edge on the granite
because it operates almost like a razor and
if the slings come in contact with that, it would cut them immediately.
Big sculpture, I'm going to have two handles at the sides...
Sculptor Ronald Rae spent a year chiselling Tyger Tyger by hand.
He's an important regular customer.
I carved this thing 14 years ago. My God, my beard was black then.
He likes to supervise everything from start to finish,
to make sure everything's done correctly, the way he wants it,
there's no damage to anything.
This thing came about - William Blake,
"Tyger tyger burning bright in the forest of the night,
"Not a mortal hand or eye can frame thy fearful symmetry."
400 miles away, Somerset lift supervisor,
Mike is figuring out how to get the sculpture to its new home.
The weight of what we are lifting is not the issue,
it's just to the access to...
..the final position is presenting something of a challenge.
So here is the plinth.
Tigger's final resting place.
New owner Sally lives in the heart of the Somerset countryside.
We think from the central point of the tiger,
you just get that lovely view through
and hopefully all the ley lines are correct as well.
For Sally, it's a mystical location. For Mike, it's hard to reach.
What I'm hoping to do is to bring the crane in down...here.
Bring the lorry in beside it, so you can lift it up that way round
and into position.
Mike has arranged for half a kilometre of track to be laid
across two fields, so the vehicles
can reach the plinth in Sally's garden.
The last thing you want is the crane slipping while it's going in
because if it does, then we've got problems getting it out obviously.
That's the main challenge, is getting the roads safe enough
and good enough to bring the crane in and the lorry in with a sculpture on.
Up in Scotland...
All right, John? A wee test lift at that, mate.
..they're ready to lift.
Just an inch off the deck, John.
Every time you carve granite, every chisel mark, you are releasing
for the first time to the light of day for 460 million years.
Those crystals are seeing the light of day.
Pure stardust. It's fantastic.
She is away. She's going.
Tyger Tyger is a one-off work of art that is insured for £100,000.
John, that's just about spot-on.
You're not bad at that!
You are the man. It's not going to fall on anybody's head.
There you go, look at that. Flying tigers!
Think of the Egyptians. We didn't have this 250-tonne crane.
Greatest granite workers in the world.
It takes four men, two hours to lift the sculpture onto the truck
and secure it in place.
Let's set it down and see which way it is going to kick.
Is that him down?
That will prevent any rocking.
I don't want him coming off on the motorway.
We don't either, I can assure you.
-Tyger Tyger's survived the first lift.
# Hi ho!
# Hi ho, hi ho... #
HE MAKES TRUMPET SOUND
What's that? An evacuation siren?
No two days are the same for the crane gang.
And in south London...
A bit of bush for you there, Cash.
One of their teams is working revamping retired council houses.
Can you see that lamp post there, Wayne?
The project is a council project for the houses that have got
existing outbuildings that are redundant now.
Not redundant, that have seen better days.
They're lifting those ones out and putting these new,
refurbed bathroom pods in.
Look, it's lovely, isn't it?
-The fork has got to come from this side, I think.
-Oh, my days.
We've got a tree this side
and a BT cable so we have a bit of a problem at the moment.
Inch it up again, Wayne. Inch it up again.
The mobile crane driver operates his crane from a cab near the ground
but top riggers Dave and Lea are his eyes and ears.
Soon as you are clear of the trees, and every obstacle,
Wayne, up you go, buddy.
It is their job to guide the hook to areas that he can't see.
-I hate this, going over houses.
Because you are so far up in the air, aren't you?
Keep coming down, keep coming as you are. Keep coming. Keep coming.
Keep it going. Keep it going. Hold it there, buddy.
Has that bolt got to go in that hole? How are you doing, Shagger?
-I don't think it's going to go in the hole.
It's a big hole!
I'll make sure it fits. Come down a touch.
Right, are we ready?
-Have you done this before?
Down you go.
-Chuckles got his name all over this.
42-year-old Dave and 41-year-old Lea met 25 years ago
and have stayed together working to the top of the crane business.
How comes I always get the brush?
That's the brains. I'm the brawn.
Customers all ask for us by Chuckles. Everyone knows us as Chuckles.
Then obviously the drivers give us the name.
That's how it's been ever since.
Sometimes in the industry,
you have to put your life in other guys' hands and we trust
each other implicitly because we've worked together so long.
We know what each other is thinking half the time,
we don't have to say, "Lee, you do this and I'll do this."
We just automatically get on and do it. It works out well.
It's a good partnership, really.
The 24/7 nature of the job means they are on the road
for weeks on end. They eat and sleep where they work.
Do you want to see the kitchen?
This is where the magic happens, in the kitchen. Kitchen area.
Sink, everything, microwave, fridge. We are self-sufficient.
Him, he's my bitch. He does the cooking. I look after the van.
He looks after the kitchen area. He's my bitch.
He makes a blinding sandwich, blinding coffee,
blinding lemon tea.
It's fantastic and I just have to do the rest.
-We've got the big magic room. The big magic room.
-I get the top bunk.
It's warmer at the top, so that is my department up there.
I can't sleep at the top, it's too warm. I can't sleep.
I have to be cold.
Most important, emergency toilet.
-You must have emergency toilet.
-Where's that then?
How does that work?
-This is where the magic happens.
-That's magic, that is.
If you've got to have a poo, you've got to have a poo, ain't ya?
Sometimes, you are in the middle of nowhere, needs must.
You are in the middle of nowhere and there is no toilets on site
so you have to have some creature comforts.
-Obviously, not in there, outside.
-Not in there... You are a liar.
-That's the living area.
-The magic van.
Have you just come back in or have you been in a while?
-Just got back in.
-Just got back in?
Keeping the crane drivers in check is the responsibility of Hayes
depot manager, Di, who has been with the company for 15 years.
Got you! Got you sleeping hard on the job.
40-year-old ex-paratrooper, Leigh, has been a crane driver
for eight years and home for him is next to the depot.
I live in the Hilton.
The Hilton of the caravans.
This is millionaires' row.
Obviously mine is the good one.
Here we have the bathroom and shower.
Here we have the master bedroom which is very, very comfortable.
My unused going out clothes. Yeah, it's very good.
This is where I live, yeah, this is where I spend 99.9% of my time.
If I'm not in here, I'm in the crane.
Crane driving, it's a way of life, not a job.
It's a way of life because you eat, sleep and breathe cranes.
I would love to be married with two kids and living in a house.
I'd love to, but it's the life I've chosen, isn't it?
When they are in the depot, drivers like Leigh are only earning basic pay.
If they are working away from home, however,
they get paid additional overtime, something they rely on.
What are you moaning for now? What's the matter?
What job am I getting now then?
Where the hell is Kendal Green?
-You will find out in a minute.
-You'll find out in a minute!
Leigh, Leigh, Leigh. Calm.
Calm down, yeah? I'm dealing with a bunch of kindergarten kids.
That is a playground.
This is the nursery office, and they are the nursery children.
Give me your money and everything.
Like I said, kindergarten.
Leigh is on his way to a job in West London.
Let's get the show on the road, then.
His 250-tonne crane is over 20m long.
Rock 'n' roll.
Every lunatic in the world now trying to overtake us.
It's more important to get in front of the crane than it is behind it.
Here comes one now.
Here it comes. Here we go. Oh, taxi driver, what a surprise(!)
Never upset the crane driver, that's the saying.
We're the alpha male of the roads.
It's an extension of your body.
It's my baby.
And it gives me power. It makes me Superman, when I'm driving it.
Here she is. This time tomorrow, that view will be different.
The London skyline is littered by hundreds of static tower cranes,
which are used to construct high-rise buildings.
And Leigh has just 12 hours to dismantle a crane that had
been building a block of flats in Islington.
Obviously, all the bus stops are not in use at the moment. Excuse me.
Good deed for the day, that. Good deed for the day.
There's plenty of signs up saying what we're doing,
yet people still park there. I'm not sympathetic.
I'm about as sympathetic as a hand grenade.
The job is in a busy London street, and it's a tight deadline.
To keep the crane constantly lifting,
the drivers work in pairs, so Leigh will share the workload
with his 50-year-old co-driver, Lee Grimwood.
A little bit off to the left, er, right.
Lee! In the front, mate, my sunglasses are in there.
Can you grab them, please? My cool ones, you know what I mean?
I've got to look good.
The sun's not even this way yet.
-See if he notices I've got them on.
-They're not there!
He's got them on.
The 19-tonne arm of the tower crane needs lowering to the ground.
But first, the riggers need to attach it to Lee's hook,
265 feet in the sky.
Their lives are in our hands up there.
One wrong move from us, and it's game over for them.
So you've got to be on your game to do this.
You've got five or six guys up there, you've got to be on the ball.
He's knocking the last pin out now, you can see it moving.
Once that pin comes out, it should be free.
Start hoisting up, hoisting up.
Through to your left, mate. It's all yours, to your left.
A bit back, mate. A bit back.
I make it look easy, don't I?
With the tower crane arm safely landed,
Lee Grimwood takes over to bring the rest down in sections.
I'm lead operator. He gets told what to do.
He doesn't do what he's told, he gets that.
You wouldn't want that on your foot.
The job is complete.
This is the beginning of a six-day shift for the Lees.
After today's 13 hours, they won't head home for another five days.
My two little boys, they don't want me to work weekends.
"Are you coming home?
"Will you be home before we go to bed, Daddy?"
All that sort of stuff.
So, yeah, it's hard being away sometimes,
when you're away weeks on end.
I just would like to work five, five-and-a-half days a week.
But unfortunately I can't afford to.
The sculpture Tyger Tyger is nearing the end of its journey
to its new home.
I really fell in love with the tiger,
and I think often tigers are portrayed as quite vicious animals,
and this is a particularly soft and rather beautiful piece.
I'm a bit nervous about it. I'm also extremely excited.
I think the real challenge begins going up the very thin lanes
through the farms and then, obviously,
once we get onto the tracking and we start going over farmland.
The lorry has finally arrived.
This is the man.
But there's a problem.
Basically, it's come down on the wrong lorry.
That is it, in a nutshell.
So we've now got to decide whether we can get this one in
or transfer it onto something else and bring it in.
It looks too long to get round the corner. The driver is concerned.
There is no way I'm going to get the turning circle to actually
get in through the gate.
Can we not get a hire from somewhere around here,
-I'd have to make some enquiries, cos I really don't know.
Well, I have to get back tomorrow afternoon.
-I'd like to hope this was done today.
-So would I!
I've got to get back to Scotland. This is nervous breakdown territory.
Where are we at? What's going on?
This is going to take longer than we thought.
-I want it done today, though.
-Yeah, it has to be done today.
-So that's the position.
The other thing is, I was just saying to Mike, there,
is that we're scrambling and trying to get a hire from somebody
with a six-wheeler flatbed lorry.
A little disappointed, actually.
Things haven't all clicked into place. So much preparation.
But we've got to get it done, got to get it sorted,
so hopefully someone will come up trumps.
The team responsible for dealing with
customers are based at Preston HQ.
Okey-dokey, cheers, bye.
The National Hire Centre is managed by Shaun Wood.
This is our team, you know?
They all look busy when there's a camera in their face.
When you're not here, they'll be sat with their feet up.
We've got Mark, he's my right-hand man.
-A bit of eye candy for the ladies in the room.
-He's been with the company now - how long for?
-Ten and a half years.
I wouldn't have given him ten and a half months when I first met him.
I wouldn't have given him ten and a half months.
Because the buck stops with me, I can be the bad cop.
Mark's the good cop, I'm the bad cop.
To be honest, Shaun hasn't got any nicknames, really.
He probably has from depots, but obviously because we respect him
in such a high manner... He is our lord and master. We call him "sir".
-There's the money.
-Thank you very much.
Tracey behind you, she's been with us about 15 years, 16 years, have you?
-12 years, it feels like 15, 16 years.
All right, not a problem, be with you in two minutes.
They arrange cranes for top clients, including the National Grid
and the Ministry Of Defence.
Leave that with me, please, I'll wait for Stephen and come back to you.
This is the nerve centre, or the nerd centre.
It's the hub of the business as far as the top customers are concerned.
We're dealing with some serious contracts.
You know, the Olympic Stadium, the rail network,
the high-speed upgrades.
The big players out there in the construction industry do contact us.
OK, thank you, bye.
We take the request from the client, so if you want
a crane in Inverness or down in Newquay in Cornwall, just give us
the work and we'll find our nearest depot to cover that work.
Every business is struggling, and we're trying to get back up there.
But if we don't look after these top, top customers, then, you know,
this place could just kind of cease to exist.
-Hi, Andrew, how you doing?
-Fine, how are you?
-I'm not bad, I'm not bad.
Six months ago, the company received nearly £100 million from investors.
What are we going to get? 750 is going to net us maybe 1.2 million.
And commercial director Gareth is spending £4 million
on the latest 750-tonne crane.
All right, mate, see you later.
The expectation on that crane is pretty high.
We're expecting... We've got high hopes.
Actually, you can't have hopes, you've got to have plans
and projections! We've got to have work for the crane.
This is the first time we've seen the machine in the colour.
It looks pretty good.
The new crane is designed for jobs in heavy industry,
and can earn £16,000 a day.
It's amazing, isn't it, really?
It's a crane spotter's dream, this, to be honest.
And, as I say, it doesn't matter whether you like cranes or not.
You can't not be impressed by it.
So this is the proximity sensor, you can see those on the inside,
the indicator lenses.
That gives the driver an alert if a cyclist is coming close.
That's a V-8 twin turbo supercharged.
So it's a much more robust engine than the standard engines
that we've had on previous cranes.
This is a radical change in design.
The capacities that this can lift are by far better
than a comparable crane from the competition.
-So, what do you think?
-It's amazing, isn't it? It is.
The challenge is, when you look at it, we've got the kit spot on,
it's absolutely state-of-the-art.
It's getting customers to understand exactly what we do.
This crane is massively important for us.
We're serious about investing in the future.
It's important that we get this crane busy,
earning the right amount of money.
In Somerset, after two hours and a flurry of phone calls,
-there is finally good news.
-They've now found a six - what is it?
-Six-wheeler flatbed lorry.
..flatbed lorry that we think will be sufficiently strong enough to
carry the tiger safely and securely.
So this is really coming at the last minute, which is fantastic.
Otherwise, I'm not quite sure what we would have done.
There it is.
The gentleman from this company, I think he's one of the owners.
I've taken him round to look at the job, he's more than happy with it.
So we're going to get it loaded and do it. It's as simple as that now.
-What if it slides out?
-It won't, it's not going to slide out.
-It's going to hold it very securely.
-How do you know?
-Because I do know.
-Because I trust them. They know what they're doing.
-Yep, I do.
I don't know about that.
I might be a bit too far.
A bit more slack?
No, you're fine, that's it.
A 100-tonne crane will lift the sculpture,
but manoeuvring down the tracks is far from straightforward.
The weeks of careful planning are finally going to be put to the test.
I'm feeling a little bit nervous, little bit emotional.
I'm also slightly concerned...
..because there is a lorry about to go into a tree.
Here we go.
OK, how is that looking?
If I bring it down to nearly on the ground for you,
-then you can have a look.
Before it's lowered into place, Mike and the crane gang have to wait
until Sally is certain her tiger is mystically aligned.
We've just got to make sure that it is centred, that it's
sitting on the plinth right, that we get it in exactly the right position.
-Are you good?
Has it made a difference?
-Is he happy down there?
-He's really happy. He's given me the thumbs up.
-Are you happy?
-It's nothing to do with me. You've got to live with it.
Wait till I'm dead till you move it.
What a monster, isn't it? We've got there, we've overcome. Job's done.
All we've got to do now is get the crane out.
Absolutely fantastic. I'm really thrilled. It looks quite spectacular.
Really, really happy.
And relieved as well!
Wish I had the money to do it!
It's very early morning,
and more cranes are being dispatched across the country.
In East London, riggers Dave and Lea,
better known as Chuckles, are about to start work on their next job...
-Got to lose some weight.
Keep me going, keep my energy up.
..dismantling a 160-year-old rail bridge so a modern replacement
better suited for today's high-speed trains can be installed.
Over 100 men from four different contractors will work
round the clock for five days to complete the job.
-Dave and Lea's huge experience should come in handy.
These are the early days when we first started.
The biggest crane there was the 400 tonne. Two slim, handsome guys.
Many moons ago.
-That's working hard.
-This is Heathrow Airport.
That's the new terminal five, the traffic control tower.
This is Edgware Road, the bombings.
We went and picked the carriage up that had the main blast in it.
When we do all these disasters, and all the deaths,
it's not worth getting into the emotional side of it,
because it will just blow your mind. Just play on your mind.
You are sympathetic towards them.
How we get around it is we make Lea wear funny teeth.
I have to wear funny teeth.
-But first, they need a crane.
-We've got traffic, mate.
And it's a job for one of the big ones. A 500 tonner.
But its arrival on site has coincided with rush-hour.
This is where we're going to cause some hassle.
I tend to find people in London
don't like to stop for abnormal loads.
Angle the crane round this blue car,
we've got a car parked up on his left.
If people could read parking restriction signs, it would
make things a little more helpful, but, you know, we'll overcome.
The rail track is closed for just 99 hours.
The thing to understand, they're going to take all these
intermediate beams out first after they've broken the concrete out.
We're going to lower them straight to the ground.
Their first job is to strip out 18 two-tonne girders.
Down you go.
Keep going down.
Keep going down.
Keep going down. Keep going down.
Once down, the next phase is to lift the entire side of the bridge out.
This big steel girder on the outside, that's coming down next.
And then I don't know what the schedule is after that.
We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
"Cross that bridge" when we come to it!
-What we doing now?
-That's on the wrong one.
-Lea's put it on the wrong one.
Before the big lift, the Chuckles are strapped onto a contractor's
cherry picker so they can attach the side of the bridge to the crane.
We're going to put the chain the other side of the bridge way.
Getting the chain secured is one thing.
But the platform has malfunctioned.
Get me down! Stop it!
What is it? They should compensate, shouldn't they? It's not my fault.
I'm not coming up here again. You do it on your own.
We can't get down!
-The thing is tilted and now we've had it.
-We can't go up or down.
I don't know what to say.
The thing's broke!
For crane drivers Lee and Leigh, it's another night away from home.
I love being away, I love it. The open road. I don't mind it.
They're en route to a job at a cement factory in the Midlands.
-I'm more enthusiastic about work than you are, aren't I?
-I've lost it.
-I know, you shouldn't, you know.
-No. I've lost the enthusiasm.
-I'm your motivation.
-No, you're not.
Let's go and get some cholesterol. How are you doing, mate?
Can I have a chicken and mushroom pie, chips, peas and gravy?
Can I have that on a tray, please?
-Can I have a cheeseburger?
-Salt on your chips?
-Yours looked horrible.
-No, it didn't.
-That's because it's got salad in it.
That's the only reason it looks horrible to you.
200 miles from home,
the Lees are spending the night in a depot en route to the next job.
You didn't get one for me, did you? You didn't get one for me, did you?
I've got plastic ones, haven't I?
If you're working away from the depot, over 40 miles, you
get your £30 living allowance, your lodge, and your £10 meal allowance.
Your £10 meal allowance is to feed you for that 24-hour period.
Which here is not so bad, five pound a meal,
your breakfast five pounds, that's £10.
If you go to some big cities - London or wherever - you'd struggle.
Given my choice, I wouldn't be away. Not any more.
-I'd much rather sleep with my wife than you.
In East London, Dave and Lea's feet are back on solid ground.
Is that all right?
-And it's time for the next stage of the job.
Hackney Downs railway bridge has been carrying trains for 160 years.
But in the next few moments, the entire bridge side is coming down.
This is where we find out whether the engineers are any good.
Keep winching it up again, go up to 30.
Measuring 30m and weighing 27 tonnes,
the lift needs to be carefully controlled.
I think there might have been something underneath holding
that end. Come up a little bit more.
-Give it a little flick to your left.
-Don't pull it! Don't pull it.
A little flick to your right, come down for me. Are you all clear there?
All right, give it up for me, give it up, buddy.
All right, we'll have them.
The massive piece of steel needs to be lowered precisely
-onto railway sleepers...
-That should do it.
..before being removed.
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
That's the way we land it, well done. Superb. Good job. Good job.
That gets cut up now.
Small sections, we pick it up,
load it in the skips for the demolition boys to take away.
Sell it on eBay.
With half the bridge down and just 50 hours left, there is
just time for a cuppa.
In the Midlands, the Lees, like other crews,
-are hitting the sack before an early start.
I'm sure my wife doesn't believe we live like this.
Working near industrial sites means their van is often the only
That's the toilet.
Just in between two and three in the middle.
-It's like camping, this, really, isn't it?
-This is how the other half live, see? Are you getting into bed?
What else is there to do?
You'd think there's a bear in here, sometimes.
If I end up sleeping like that - I fall asleep with the telly on,
right, and I'm like that - I end up snoring. He just snores anyway.
-I don't snore.
-And he farts. There's a lot of farting going on.
This is it.
-Living the dream.
-This is not how it's supposed to be, you know.
-Up in Preston HQ...
-Right, let's go in here.
..commercial director Gareth is looking at new ways to grow
Come on, I need someone who's got an opinion on everything.
A range of company merchandise.
One of the crane companies, their sales,
-millions of pounds a year they're doing off online sales.
Yes, toy cranes, people are buying the cranes and stuff.
You go to a B&Q now, any kind of outlet, you can buy JCB stuff.
That's kind of the power of a brand. I mean, take stuff like this.
A collector would probably pay between £500 and £1,000 for that.
People do collect all over the world.
-How about that?
-I tell you what, we could be in LA.
-We could be LA gangsters.
-Well, I wouldn't go that far.
-Customers are close to your heart.
Handy for someone like yourself in the winter. A bit of light upstairs.
-Keep my hair.
-So you think it's a good idea?
If it's your idea, Gareth, it's a good idea.
The team don't seem that convinced.
But his big hope, the new 750-tonne crane, has arrived.
Right boys, get out of the way.
Gareth hopes it will ease the pressure to increase revenue.
There aren't too many of those machines in the world.
There will be plenty of work for the machine in oil and gas,
in wind farms. It's ideal for those sectors.
Upstairs in the call centre, it's an opportunity to win new business.
He has put two days, I'm assuming it's Friday-Monday,
but I'll check, I'll come back to you.
We are an integral part of keeping Britain building, improving,
all the time.
We're a small cog in a big machine which helps make this country better.
But not every caller wants to hire a crane.
We often get members of the public calling in, saying,
"I'm stuck behind your crane," and the person in the Chelsea tractor
wants to take Tarquin to school and he's going to be late.
I'm pretty sure if he could make his crane go faster, he would do.
But he can't, and that's just the way it is.
Gareth, however, has more pressing issues.
It's his monthly meet with his management team to discuss profits.
OK, right, we'll get started then.
In terms of our business, just to give you an overview, very quickly.
February was a tough month for us, there's no getting away from that.
The business is doing quite well,
we've just got a bit of work to do now till the year end.
I've got on my listing London 2012 is finished,
so that's not going to be there next year.
Arcomet's finished, that's not going to be there next year.
We were supposed to be getting all the work.
That's gone out the window from last year.
The '11, '12 three accounts that you managed delivered £16 million.
But we're saying in the new financial year they are only going to do 12.
It's a big dip.
Four million dip.
Mindful of the fact that I'm here to do a job,
then I need to do that job, and if I don't do that job,
I'm sure our owners will find somebody that does.
In Hackney, the bridge replacement is into its third day.
I could hear the drilling.
I couldn't get to sleep until 5.30 one night,
and I couldn't go to work, I felt so awful. It's a nightmare.
The job has fallen 12 hours behind schedule.
Watch that! That's live! That's live!
And Network Rail and construction bosses have come to see
what's causing the hold-up.
Probably everybody feels it, can you hurry up,
and it will just keep getting rushed, really.
There's more suits than there is workers.
Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
You can tell who the management are because they're always clean.
The workers are always rotten and filthy,
and management are always nice and clean,
the ones that don't do nothing.
A piece of bridge needs lifting between overhead power cables.
It's the most difficult part of the job.
Do you want to come out the way, because that's coming down now.
All clear down here. Yeah, bring it down.
Keep going. Keep going.
But as they lift, there's a change of plan.
If we bring this down, we're going to stop that coming out, OK?
That's more important we get that out.
They will block the massive bridge-mover's path.
-Well, that was the other...
-We've just had a change.
I wish they could have told us before we got this up.
-What we do with it now? Put it back?
-Hold it back there if you can.
It's got to go back. Too late! Too late.
They don't want to put that back now. It's dangerous.
We can't hold it above there, it's got to come down.
If we come down...
So you want to muck about
trying to get this all back through there again?
They're still bringing it down. I asked you to stop already!
I asked you to stop when we were there.
But it wouldn't stop in the middle of the lift. It's unsafe.
You can't just leave a bridge section like this
hanging in the air for everybody to start walking round, walking under.
It becomes a safety issue and you have to make the decision and stick by it.
The last we was told, instructed, get this out.
Before or after that, he went, get it out now.
It's one of them things.
We'll just keep persevering and carry on and get it done.
It's three quarters of the way through the job,
and finally the old bridge can be replaced.
The bigger the crane the more money it makes.
It's the largest one on-site. You see it for miles. Absolutely miles.
Tristam drives a slightly different crane - a 600-tonne crawler.
Apart from my family, this is the second love of my life.
Family, and then cranes.
You end up being a bit of an old woman in here.
You see bird shit or something and it will bother you for about an hour.
VOICE OVER RADIO
The rest of the crane might have grease all over it,
but one bit might just bother you for a day and you end up getting out
and cleaning that one bit.
This one stretches 320 feet into the sky
and can rake in between £5,000 and £50,000 pounds a day.
In every respect, size does matter,
and don't let any woman tell you otherwise!
Crawlers are the future.
These are the best out of all the cranes.
They're beefier looking, they look meaner. They are made for the job.
If that mobile over there can't reach what he needs to reach,
he has to spend about 20 minutes de-rigging just to move forward
probably about a metre, where if I need to move forwards a metre,
I just move forwards a metre with the tracks.
Tristam and his crane are north of Oxford for the next four months
building a new waste energy plant.
It's a prestigious job for the company.
-VOICE ON RADIO:
-'Hold it there, mate. Hold it there.'
Today Tristam is installing an industrial boiler.
Once it's up in the air, they'll give it a final check,
make sure there's no stones caught in it that could drop off
on the way round, make sure everything's secure,
The wave up in the air means, clear to go.
'Come down now, mate.
'Keep coming down, mate. Keep coming down.'
Unlike other crane drivers that work in pairs,
crawler drivers work alone.
You've got to enjoy your own company.
If you don't enjoy your own company for this job, you won't last long.
A self-confessed crane geek, definitely.
At Preston HQ, the new 750 has yet to get a job.
Dave? Hi, Dave, we've got you a 100-tonne Demag.
But Woody and the team need to keep the rest of the fleet out earning.
Eight o'clock on site, is it? Cheers, Dave.
They're just a waste of space!
Well, they're not getting a crane, then.
They're blatantly lying to somebody and just not paying.
It's just all delay tactics, and I'd be surprised if they don't go boom.
Seriously. Cheers, thanks, bye-bye.
Basically, a customer owes us money, just short of £20,000.
They keep making promises that they're going to pay,
then when we chase them up for payments,
"No, we told you, we'll pay you next week, we'll pay you next week,"
and it's just an ongoing thing.
But this happens a lot, and since the recession,
we're seeing that more and more.
If that's how the customer's going to stop, they don't get a crane.
No, I've been putting out fires on other issues,
-if I'm honest with you.
-Thank you, Annie, bye.
It's just part and parcel of the job,
dealing with a high volume of work, but you've just got to
battle on through it and come out the other end.
Smiles and dimples, as they say.
I think that's our company motto, smiles and dimples.
Overnight, the bridge contractors have made up time,
and the new bridge is in
just in time for the tracks to reopen on schedule.
The Chuckles can relax.
-We've got tea on.
You're so messy! He leaves everything everywhere,
you can see chicken bones in here from yesterday. It drives me mad.
From the old bridge coming out to the new bridge going in,
from stage to stage, you get a sense of achievement at the end of it.
It's amazing. Amazing feat of engineering.
They're making a lot of noise, but they're doing a good job.
Let's hope the next bridge lasts 160 years!
The crane gang can overcome many obstacles, except the weather.
It's the biggest cause of delays and cancellations.
It's been the UK's harshest spring for 60 years
and it's affecting business.
OK, well, it's changed again.
I've just rang the crane in Devonport,
and like everybody else on that side, everybody's winded off.
I don't think there's any chance of them lifting today with the weather.
Everything that's planning this morning
will have changed by tea-time.
We had an absolute full book for the weekend,
we were absolutely brimming over,
but jobs have just dropped off really badly.
So we've just had a bit of a situation in the yard.
The tower crane was struggling to hold on to his loads.
He's looked and it's blowing 100kmph out there,
so we had to get him down out of the tower crane. It's a bit windy!
You wouldn't get me up there, that's for sure.
Cranes can't work in the wind, that's the major problem.
It's like flying a big kite.
If you've got something on the end of a hook,
it tends not to go where you want when it's windy.
On his building site in north Oxford,
Tristam and fellow crawler driver Andy
are waiting for the wind to drop.
-What's the wind speed?
-20m a second.
-Too windy for us.
It's basically, go and have a check round the crane again,
make sure everything's still secure and chill out then.
It's blowing a gale, you can hear it.
You can stand here and listen to it blowing through the wires.
You can see the wind's well up. There's no question about it.
Hi, you all right? Just an update, really, on what you're doing, when you'll be finished.
I know the weather's bad down there with the wind and everything.
The wind's getting stronger so they might abort it this afternoon. OK.
Speak to you shortly. Thanks. Bye-bye.
You know, the drivers make more money out of it.
But we don't necessarily make any more money out of it.
If the crane doesn't work in the wind,
the customer doesn't have to pay a full charge.
There is a wind-off charge, but the driver still gets paid and he might
be quite happy about sitting there with his paper
or getting his head down, you know. Too windy.
When it's this windy,
they do make snide comments about us crane drivers liking to sit around
and do nothing and they do sort of say we're lazy,
-even though it's blowing gale force.
-I don't know where they get that from.
I don't know where they get that image from.
We're always busy, we never have our feet up.
I'm trying not to laugh!
Is there any sort of pressure from the office to keep going?
No pressure. No pressure from the office whatsoever.
It's all down to us, really.
The office! This'll be the pressure.
Bad weather's not the only problem.
The new 750-tonne crane is yet to get a job.
I'm just ringing about that very same quote.
I was just wondering if you have any idea when you're going to need us.
Thank you. Bye.
All right, mate. Cheers, Bob. Ta-ra.
If it doesn't go out working,
we turn the lights off first of all, save some money.
And then we send back the company cars and get them
Reliant Robins and Ford Escorts.
It's not the Millennium Dome just yet,
but we've just got to be there ready for when the phone rings.
It cost Ainscough £4 million,
and management want it busy.
But a month in, it hasn't earned a penny.
They want to see it move. They don't want to see it
sitting there looking pretty but going rusty.
They're going to put the squeeze on. It can't sit there indefinitely.
There's got to be some work coming for it soon,
otherwise somebody will be asking serious questions.
Every day's a challenge.
We can all wax lyrical about our fantastic revenues,
but we've actually got to make a profit.
It's all about the bottom line.
We got 1,000 people working in this organisation.
We got a keep them in a job.
So do I have a few sleepless nights thinking about that? Yes, I do.
-These are my lucky pants.
..it's all change for The Crane Gang...
-That don't sound too healthy!
-No, it don't, does it?
..as they look to the future...
-Wasn't watching, was I?
-..reflect on the past...
He'll be truly missed, the old git.
..and the management say, "On your bike."
You're trying to kill somebody!
I'm going home. I don't want to play no more.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The pressure is on for the UK's largest mobile crane company.
Lifting a hugely expensive sculpture into a private home in Somerset proves to be a logistical nightmare as an important client watches. In east London, the removal of an old railway bridge turns to angst and argument when the job falls 12 hours behind schedule.
For crane driver teams like Leigh and Lee, it all means a relentless and frustrating 24/7 schedule as they criss-cross the country in their 2-berth transit van, eating take-away dinners on the go and rarely seeing home. As the firm tries to get jobs done, it is not just the workers who are feeling the heat. With private investors leaning on him to up the profits, commercial director Gareth Jones sees balance sheets hit hard when high winds lead to jobs being cancelled across the country. To make matters worse, his new purchase of a £4m state-of the art crane has yet to lead to a job for the firm.