Three months in to main construction on the A14’s £1.5bn upgrade in Cambridgeshire, Highways England’s project manager is giving a sneak peek into progress made so far – including technical innovations and archaeological finds.
Much has been achieved since main construction on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme, Highways England’s biggest scheme currently in construction, started at the end of November last year.
Chris Griffin, A14 project manager at Highways England, talks through progress so far:
“As yellow diggers have become a familiar sight along the A14 corridor in Cambridgeshire, drivers will have noticed the changes along the existing A14. But there is plenty happening that they might not have noticed.”
“The narrow lanes, temporary speed limits, cones and barriers we’ve installed allow workers to build accesses for construction traffic and carry out vegetation clearance ahead of the bird nesting season while keeping disruption on the road to a minimum and keeping road users safe”, Chris explains.
All the trees that have been cut are being used as biomass for energy production locally and more trees will be replanted when the project nears completion.
“We are committed to keeping the main roads at full capacity during the day”, Chris continues, “so we only use overnight lane or carriageway closures if it is absolutely necessary, like for instance if we need to install signs or barriers, carry out pavement surveys or strengthen the carriageway where heavy machinery will need to cross on a regular basis.”
“We’ve also installed CCTV cameras along the A14 so we can actively manage disruption to road users from a dedicated control room within the scheme’s main compound. This helps us to stay aware at all times of conditions on the road and to take measures quickly if things don’t go to plan.”
But the most interesting activities to date are probably the ones that can’t be seen from the road.
Construction of the River Great Ouse Viaduct
Chris explains: “A significant part of the scheme is a new bypass, including a viaduct over the River Great Ouse, which will run south of Huntingdon. This bypass is a brand new road so is being built away from the existing A14, with no disruption to road users other than when plant occasionally cross local roads while travelling along the new construction haul roads.
“Work on this section of the project is progressing well and to schedule. Building the 750-metre long River Great Ouse viaduct, which will carry the new A14 across the flood plain and river, is a complex task. The first step has been to install a pontoon which has a 52 tonne capacity, allowing fully laden dump trucks and plant access across the river. This pontoon is allowing us to install a temporary bridge so we can start building the viaduct itself.”
Construction of the foundations and columns for the viaduct is also under way, with plans for later this year to start installing the steelwork that supports the bridge deck and start casting the 800 concrete panels needed for the viaduct.
“We have also been building foundations for several of the new bridges”, he adds. “People may have noticed our construction teams installing giant steel cages along the A1 recently. Once these are in place, concrete will be poured around them to form the bridge foundations and we’ll be able to start building the bridges themselves.”
The Archaeological team has also made great progress since starting excavations last autumn following extensive surveys and trial trenching. The team identified important archaeological remains dating from the prehistoric period through to the Romano-British and medieval periods.
“The trial trenching identified some 350 hectares of land that our archaeologists would need to look at”, says Chris. “Most of the remains show evidence of settlements or industrial activity, including a well-preserved series of Romano-British pottery kilns, some carving tools and even the remains of a cow.”
Excavations will be taking place across the scheme throughout 2017 and the team is planning on presenting findings to the local community once the archaeological work is finished.
“I am pleased with progress so far on the scheme”, says Chris. “We have a challenging timetable to deliver the scheme and open the new A14 to traffic by the end of 2020, so it is good to see the speed at which work is progressing as well as the innovative solutions we are using to tackle challenges.”
The water consulting business at Mouchel has seen strong growth to start 2017 with a reappointment to a key AMP6 project for Essex & Suffolk Water – the consultancy has also strengthened the team with the appointment of five new staff.
Mouchel, which will rebrand as WSP in July following last year’s acquisition by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, has been reappointed by Essex & Suffolk Water (ESW) for its domestic retrofit program across their residential customer base.
Mouchel has been partnering with ESW and their water efficiency program for the past 11 years to deliver approximately 10% of ESW’s water saving target set out in the Water Resource Management Plan (WRMP).
Now entering its 13th phase, each involving liaison with approximately 15,000 customers within a designated catchment area, the programme aims to deliver home “audits” with a view to saving residents as much water as possible.
This is carried out by a team of professional plumbers, who assess the existing water fitments in a home (showers, toilets, baths, taps, outdoor water supply etc.) to ensure residents are benefitting from the most up to date water saving devices available.
Phase 13 of the project is due to begin in April 2017, which has recently been rebranded as “Every Drop Counts”.
Hamish Chalmers, Mouchel technical delivery manager, said:
“We’re very proud to have been selected once again to carry on delivering this valuable service for the customers of Essex & Suffolk Water in what is the driest region of the country. With each phase we see new levels of innovative working achieved and we will continue to work hard with Essex& Suffolk Water and their residents to ensure every drop counts. We look forward to carrying on our highly successful partnership deeper into the AMP6 program.”
Five new appointments to further strengthen water team
Tim Knobbs has also joined Mouchel as technical director for design and capital delivery, one of five new appointments to the water team. He arrives from Atkins having spent the last two years as the engineering manager for the 230-strong CABV (Costain Atkins Black & Veatch) JV design team working as part of Thames Waters £1.7bn AMP6 eight₂O Alliance.
A chartered engineer, fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and member of the Chartered Institute of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM), Tim Knobbs will develop and lead the water consultancy’s technical community and will be charged with raising the consultancy’s profile for technical excellence, both with water-industry clients and the wider industry.
Mark Carlisle, Head of Water at Mouchel, added:
“With our work across the UK from Whitesands, Scotland to North Wales to Essex, it’s been a productive start to the year for our growing water consultancy. In 2017 we’ll continue to work to grow our business whilst focusing on client delivery, technical expertise, and making the most of the fantastic opportunities the WSP integration is providing.”
Drivers have been urged not to use the M5 unless they have to during a major 18-month roadworks scheme.
Motorists are facing a traffic nightmare from Easter when the speed limit between junctions one for West Bromwich and two for Oldbury is slashed to 30mph.
Those who regularly use the motorway are facing chaos until the end of 2018.
Highways England has insisted the work to replace waterproofing on the crumbling Oldbury viaduct is essential and cannot be put off any longer.
Bosses also stressed the job could not have been done overnight and that the 30mph speed limit, which is likely to leave thousands of vehicles crawling along the two-mile stretch, was necessary if slip roads were to be kept open.
Council bosses in Sandwell have raised concerns about the impact the roadworks scheme will have on businesses and surrounding roads.
Matthew Taylor, Highways England asset manager for Birmingham, said drivers were should avoid the motorway wherever possible.
He told the Express & Star: “This is going to have a major impact and we wouldn’t be doing the scheme unless we absolutely had to.
“The waterproofing has come to the end of its life and has been down for 30 years.
“We are asking people who usually use the M5 to look at using alternative routes or public transport.”
The 30mph speed limit has led to concerns of traffic moving at a snail’s pace, but Mr Taylor said the move was necessary.
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