BRIDGWATER is now home to the world's largest land-based crane - a structure 'pivotal' to the completion of Hinkley Point C.

'Big Carl', as it is affectionately known, has been assembled at the construction site over the last three months, and is now ready to start pulling his weight.

The crane, built by Sarens, is set to be on the site for the next four years.

What's even more special about Big Carl, is he is able to move across the site along tracks that have been built to specific 'lifting points'.

But he won't be going anyway fast - as it can take up to 12 hours to move just 200metres.

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CONSTRUCTION: Big Carl - the crane at HPC 

The crane has hold 8,000 litres of diesel, which would normally last a few weeks, but if it's running on full power, the tank would be empty in just four days.

Francois Swanepoel, lifting lead for Bylor, said: "Usually you will see toner cranes, and mobile cranes and crawlers on normal construction sites.

"This crane is standing at more than 165m high at the moment, it's got 5,200 tonnes of ballast on it, it's absolutely huge, it's like nothing else on this project and, I would say, in the UK at the moment.

"The crane was needed because of the big components that we need to fabricate and place on this project, it's a much better option to cast them away from the final position and then lift them into position.

"It saves on time, saves on cost, and if something goes wrong with a component, you don't need to fear for any other part of the construction.

"It's the only one that I know of that can relocate.

"In total, there is round about 700 lifts to be done over four years.

"They range from different sizes, up to 1,600tonnes that's going to be lifted, but that number could change as the project develops.

Hendrick Saran, executive director of Sarens, said: "It was very simple. The client came with a question, asking can you do this and that, can you move the crane in a very short time.

"Nothing of that kind existed to that date, so we designed it, we developed it, and we built it and moved it to the site.

"The total time for design, engineering and construction was about four years.

"Then we assembled in a test yard in Belgium for several months. After that we dissembled it, we brought it to the job site and it took us three months to put it here.

"The tracks was the best technical solutions to move the crane from one lifting position to another.

The crane itself weights about 10,000tonnes, and the maximum boom length is 1,068metres.

It takes four people to operate the crane, as well as some lifting supervisors.

Lifting technician apprentice Beth Sharkey, from Bridgwater, drives tower cranes on the site.

Beth says she has always been interested in construction and had previously worked at HPC in the facilities department, before working her way up to her current position.

"I couldn't see myself doing anything else," she said.

"Every day is a different day. It's quite intense, so it's never a boring day.

"You can't put into words the sheer size of the crane. Everyone is really excited to be around it and it's just the biggest thing.

"Even since January we have seen an increase in women working here. It's grown massively and it's really nice to see, it's lovely to have other women around.

"Realistically there are much more men, but it is such a big family, it's like a little village, it's great. "My message to young girls would be to go for it, just try.

"I was in a position thinking 'can I?' 'should I?', then I just bit the bullet one day. It took me a while, but I wish I'd done it sooner."

Without Big Carl, the planned progress for the site would not be able to go ahead.

Martin Westbury, construction director for Bylor, said they are at a 'pivotal point' of construction.

He said: "The commissioning of Big Carl now allows us to, effectively, start the construction process.

"Some of the modularisation and prefabrication we are going to do here requires Big Carl to lift some very very big items that we are building and constructing.

"The whole of our strategy is based upon the prefabrication of large elements and Big Carl is an integral part of that.

"We have been building for some two years and we have been on site for probably four.

"We are just getting going so we are starting the super structure for unit one.

"We are going to lift over 700 elements using big Carl.

"We have achieved every single milestone we have set to date.

"If you look at the construction of the nuclear island, we have done the underside, the raft of the nuclear island, and that was the UK's largest single continuous concrete pour.

"So we are on track."