A LEADING North East construction firm has launched a dedicated materials testing division to capitalise on opportunities within the North East civil engineering sector.

OPAL Testing Services has been established by the Owen Pugh Group as an externally focused business, to provide UKAS accredited aggregate and soils testing both on site and within the materials testing laboratory based at Marsden Quarry in Whitburn.

The work undertaken by the seven strong team includes carrying out sampling and testing to ensure materials comply with relevant specifications for construction and civil engineering use. The team also undertakes site investigation work, providing a factual geotechnical assessment of the ground conditions related to the proposed development.

While Owen Pugh Aggregates, which owns and operates the Marsden Quarry site, has previously offered materials testing as a service to other divisions within the Owen Pugh Group, the launch of OPAL Testing Services follows an investment of £100k in equipment, facilities and a new vehicle as well as the recruitment of two new apprentices, Maxine Dennis and Dominic Brown, to enable the business to generate its own revenue stream.  OPAL is already attracting work from a number of construction and civil engineering companies as well as local authorities and has already secured work on significant regional schemes.

Michael Aiston, Lab Manager at OPAL Testing Services, said: “The launch of OPAL Testing Services was a natural progression for the materials testing facility at Marsden Quarry.  With significant schemes like the development of the New Wear Crossing and Morpeth Bypass underway in the region, and the recent expansion of our lab facilities, now is the time to capitalise on our assets and become an externally focused operation.  We’re pleased to welcome on board apprentice lab technicians Maxine and Dominic who are already showing real promise and will ensure we’re well positioned to meet customer demands.”

Michael says that the commitment to high quality customer service and swift turnaround times will ensure the success of the operation. He added: “The customer experience is at the forefront of everything we do.  We are committed to doing everything possible to meet and exceed their requirements, for example we’re able to provide the results of plate bearing tests instantly on site which means fewer delays for the customer.”

OPAL Testing Services is also committed to investing in the latest equipment to maintain efficiencies and ensure the highest Health & Safety standards, for example it has invested in an Electronic Density Gauge (EDG), a nuclear-free alternative for determining the moisture and density of compacted soils used in road beds and foundations.

Michael added: “We pride ourselves operate at the forefront of technology which again allows both ourselves and our customers to be as effective and efficient as possible.”

John Dickson, chairman of the Owen Pugh Group, said: “The launch of OPAL Testing Services is an exciting development for the group which allows us to maximise the materials testing capabilities at our Marsden Quarry site.  With a number of major schemes underway in the region the OPAL Testing Services team is well placed to utilise its specialist capabilities to ensure the future growth of the division.”

A new website has been developed to underpin the launch of OPAL Testing Services which can be found at:

OPAL Testing Services is part of the Owen Pugh Group which comprises five trading companies operating in the civil engineering industry, undertaking earthmoving and demolition, drainage and groundworks, plant hire and haulage, quarrying, inert waste and drain cleaning, and CCTV surveys.  The group, which employs more than 430 staff across its divisions, is headquartered in Dudley near Cramlington, with other bases in Blaydon, Sunderland, Stockton-on-Tees and Marsden Quarry.


For further information about the Owen Pugh Group visit


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BDC 299 December 2022