Huge motorway junction upgrade completed six weeks early

A £5 million project to improve journeys and safety at a major motorway junction in Merseyside has been completed six weeks ahead of schedule.

More than 90,000 drivers travel through Switch Island every day, where the M57, M58 and three A roads all meet, making it one of England’s busiest motorway junctions.

Airport-runway-style LED studs, extra-high traffic lights and high-friction surfaces are among the improvements made by Highways England. The 175 LED lights mark out lanes at the junction and automatically switch on when traffic lights turn green, helping drivers stay in the correct lane.

The new five-metre-high traffic lights are also designed to improve safety as they are higher than HGVs and double-decker buses so that drivers approaching Switch Island can clearly see when the lights are changing.

Phil Tyrrell, Project Manager at Highways England, said:

“Tens of thousands of drivers rely on Switch Island every day to get to work, for deliveries or to meet friends and family so we’re keen to make sure their journeys are as smooth as possible.

“The changes we’ve made should make it easier and safer to travel through the junction, and we’ve already received lots of positive comments about the new LED road studs which light up your lane as you travel through Switch Island.

“We’ve been carrying out work overnight to minimise the impact on drivers, and would like to thank our contractors, Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald, for going the extra mile to get the scheme finished well ahead of schedule.”

The Switch Island project, which was funded by the government’s £220 million congestion relief programme, began in early 2018 and was originally due to take 12 months but has been completed six weeks early.

This scheme will improve safety and help reduce the risk of incidents at the junction, following 49 collisions in two years – an average of one every fortnight.

Other improvements include changes to the road layout and lane markings, new barriers between carriageways, and four new overhead gantries which clearly display destination signs over each lane.

The junction has also been resurfaced and a new 400 metre shared cycle path has been created, which links up with the existing cycle path alongside the A5036 Dunnings Bridge Road.

Highways England’s maintenance teams have been making improvements to the A5036 while the junction upgrade work has been taking place, including filling potholes, installing new signs and repairing footpath guard rails.

For more articles like this, please visit Highways Industry News website.

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Extra lanes open on M6 in Cheshire as part of major upgrade

Drivers heading towards Manchester on the M6 through Cheshire can use an extra lane from today (Friday 18 January) – increasing capacity on one of England’s busiest stretches of motorway by a third.

Highways England has opened a fourth lane on the northbound carriageway between Holmes Chapel and Knutsford (junctions 18 to 19) as a major upgrade of the motorway nears its completion.

New overhead electronic signs have also been switched on to provide drivers with live information about their journeys, including changes in the speed limit, lane closures and incidents on their route.

A fourth lane is also due to be opened southbound between the same junctions overnight tonight, benefitting the 120,000 drivers who use the route in both directions every day.

Arun Sahni, Project Manager at Highways England, said:

“We’re on schedule to complete the upgrade of the M6 through Cheshire by the end of March and we’ve now reached the stage where we can open extra lanes on almost half of the scheme.

“The additional lanes we’re introducing will significantly increase the motorway’s capacity and will improve journeys on the key route between the West Midlands and North West.

“We’re continuing to do everything we can to minimise disruption while the work takes place and would like to thank drivers for bearing with us during the final few weeks of the project.”

Highways England increased the speed limit on the stretch of motorway between Holmes Chapel and Knutsford to 60mph before Christmas, improving journeys for drivers who used the M6 to visit friends and family over the festive season.

The 60mph speed limit will remain in place in both directions on the upgraded eight-mile stretch of motorway for the next few weeks while contractors complete testing of new technology, and it is due to be fully operational as a smart motorway by early February.

The entire 18-mile upgrade between Crewe and Knutsford is also on schedule to be finished by the end of March.

When the smart motorway scheme is complete, traffic sensors at the side of the motorway will automatically set variable speed limits on overhead electronic signs to keep traffic moving, preventing tailbacks and stop-start conditions caused by sudden braking.

New CCTV cameras will also provide extensive coverage of the motorway to help Highways England’s traffic officers and the emergency services respond quickly to incidents, and frequent emergency areas will provide drivers with a safe place to stop if they break down.

A similar smart motorway scheme on a stretch of the M62 in West Yorkshire has resulted in commuters saving an average 30 minutes each week, despite an increase in the number of vehicles using the route.

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Council explains reasons for £45 million street light replacement plan

Bradford Council has revealed more details of why it is planning to spend £45 million replacing the district’s 60,000 street lights in a time of austerity.

Last year the Council announced that it will be replacing every street light in the district with modern, energy efficient LED lighting over the next five years.

The announcement was made on the same day the authority revealed it would be making £13.5 million in savings in 2019-20 and a further £19.9 million in cuts in 2020-21. The news that the street light programme would cost £45 million, at a time when cuts were being made to libraries and other public services, raised a few eyebrows.

A new report released by the Council sheds more light on the costly project. It says the change will reduce the amount of energy used by the district’s streetlights by 65 per cent, saving around £2 million a year.

The report also reveals the company that makes the low pressure sodium lamps that are used in 35,000 of the District’s street lights will cease manufacturing them next year.

It will go before Bradford Council’s Regeneration and Environment Scrutiny Committee next Tuesday.

Members will be told that part of the funding for the project will be provided from Salix Finance – an organisation dedicated to providing interest free loans for energy saving measures to the public sector. They will provide a £13.189m loan.

The remaining funding, £32.4m, will be provided from Prudential Borrowing.

According to the report: “The project has been assessed over a 50 year period with modest inflation applied

to the costs of energy which is projecting a total saving in energy of £166.5M along with a maintenance saving of £23.6m giving a total saving of £189.13m over 50 years.”

As well as replacing every street light with LED lighting, 17,000 street light columns will be replaced as part of the project.

Members of the committee will be told that the new lighting will effectively be “smart lighting” able to report faults or damage when they occur.

It says the lights will also have a much longer life than the existing lanterns, meaning they will require less maintenance.

Councillors will also be told that the changes are vital in the face of rising energy costs.

The report says: “In view of the projected energy cost increases, in terms of options a do nothing approach would merely leave the Council with increased budget pressures at a time when central government grants are diminishing.”

The meeting takes place in City Hall at 5.30pm.

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UK water sector launches wet wipes flushability standard

The UK water companies, together with their official body Water UK, have launched a new flushability standard for all wet wipes in a bid to combat the blockages which currently cost the country £100 million a year.

From now on manufacturers of wipes will be able to feature an official water industry ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol on their packaging if they pass strict scientific tests. This symbol will let consumers know that the products don’t contain plastic and will break down in the sewer system instead of clogging up sewers and contributing to fatbergs which cause blockages and sewage overflows.

Fatbergs – mainly caused by a build-up of wet wipes, fats, oils and grease into a solid mass – have been increasing in frequency in recent years. These include a 250-metre long fatberg in Whitechapel in London in 2017 and a 64-metre fatberg which was discovered blocking a sewer in Sidmouth, Devon.

In 2017 the biggest ever in-depth investigation of sewer blockages in the UK proved that wipes being flushed down toilets caused serious problems in the sewerage system. The project found that non-flushable wet wipes could make up around 93% of the material causing some sewer blockages. The wipes – which included a high proportion of baby wipes – are not designed to be flushed.

Commenting on the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“This is an important step in the battle against blockages. We’ve all seen the impact of fatbergs recently, and we want to see fewer of them. Improving the environment is at the core of what the water industry does, and the new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard that we’ve created will make it easier for consumers to buy an environmentally-friendly product instead of one which clogs up drains and sewers.”

Manufacturers can have their wipes tested by WRc, the Swindon-based independent technical experts who developed the specifications for flushability standards in conjunction with Water UK. If they pass the tests, the wipes manufacturers will receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol from WRc.

Although there has been an increase in products being labelled ‘Do Not Flush’, there are many wipes on the market labelled ‘Flushable’ which do not break down quickly when they enter the sewer system, and which would not pass the stringent tests which meet the standard to receive the ‘Fine to Flush’ symbol. The labelling of these products can cause confusion amongst consumers, increasing the problem of sewer blockages.

There are approximately 300,000 sewer blockages annually, costing the country £100 million. Thousands of properties suffer sewer flooding caused by the blockages every year in the UK, creating misery for homeowners and businesses and leading to high clean-up bills and increased insurance costs. Sewer flooding also has a major impact on the environment.

The technical name for ‘Fine to Flush’ is Water Industry Specification (WIS) 4-02-06.

https://www.waterbriefing.org/home/water-issues/item/15768-uk-water-sector-launches-wet-wipes-flushability-standard

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M25 smart motorway scheme between A3 and M40 junctions in ‘preliminary design’

Highways England estimates the cost to be between £335.5m and £478.9m

Plans to convert the M25 between the A3 and M40 junctions into a “smart” motorway are in the preliminary design stage.

Highways England, which manages the smart motorway projects, says the designs should be completed by late spring.

The agency estimates the cost of the project to be between £335.5 million and £478.9 million, with a start date of 2020/21.

It says the section between Junction 10 A3 and Junction 16 M40 has two-way traffic flows of more than 200,000 vehicles a day, the highest on its strategic road network. The amount of traffic results in “frequent congestion and severe delays” for road users.

Highways England says: “The government announced that its preferred solution was for a smart motorway with all-lane running at junctions 15 M4 to 16 M40 and also at junctions 10 A3, 11 Chertsey and 12 M3.

“This means the existing hard shoulder would be converted into a traffic lane providing five lanes for traffic at junctions 15 to 16 and four lanes elsewhere.

“Regular refuge areas are available in place of the hard shoulder for emergency use.”

As part of plans for the new third runway at Heathrow the airport proposes to build a tunnel for the M25 between junctions 14 Heathrow and 15 M4.

Heathrow aims to move the carriageway 150 metres west of its current site and lower it seven metres into a tunnel.

A spokesman for Highways England said officers are working with the airport and other schemes in the M25 south west quadrant.

He said: “The M25 smart motorway design activities started before the government made its decision on Heathrow so we are aware that a small part of the smart motorway design, around Junction 14, may become redundant depending on the future design of Heathrow.

“The remainder of the smart motorway scope remains unchanged by the airport expansion.”

Highways England is currently preparing a planning application for the redevelopment of the M25 junction with the A3. It says it will submit a development consent order to the planning inspectorate in “early 2019”. If granted work will start in 2020/21.

Highways England has already converted the M3 between Junction 2 M25 and Junction 4a Farnborough into a smart motorway. The project took more than two years to complete and cost £174 million.

It has attracted criticism from motorway users. Paul Mayhew, from Walton, was one of many people to contact Surrey Live. He said: “No hard shoulder at all is potentially lethal, and the overhead signage is badly utilised and managed… drivers have little faith in it.”

The M23 is being currently being converted into a smart motorway, between junctions 8 M25 and 10 Crawley.

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Green light for Hull’s £42m tidal flood defence scheme

Construction of a multi-million pound scheme to protect thousands of homes and businesses in Hull from flooding from the Humber has been given the go ahead.

The £42 million flood alleviation scheme, approved by Hull’s planning committee earlier this month on the fifth anniversary of the tidal surge that caused devastation the city, has now had final sign off from the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Led by the Environment Agency, the Humber Hull Frontage Improvement Scheme will upgrade tidal flood defences at eight locations along the estuary foreshore, including at St Andrew’s Quay and Victoria Dock Village.

The fully government funded flood defences, which will see more than 7 kilometres of tidal flood defences along the Humber estuary improved, will provide a 1 in 200 year standard of protection and will reduce tidal risk for 113,000 homes and businesses.

The design of the flood defences will include some areas of glass panels to maintain a view of the waterfront.

The £42 million investment links to a further £16 million investment in tidal flood defences either side of Hull at Paull and Hessle, which is being delivered by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Now that the planning application has been approved, preliminary work is due to start at St Andrew’s Quay Retail Park early this year. The scheme will be delivered by contractor BMM JV – a joint venture between BAM Nuttall and Mott MacDonald – and is expected to be completed by March 2021.

Allan Rogers, framework director for BMM JV said:

“Having a role in this significant flood alleviation scheme is inspiring for our teams. We are delighted to be at the heart of the design and efficient delivery of schemes through water engineering and management (WEM), and contributing to the Environment Agency’s target of protecting homes and business’ across England.”

 

Both the Humber Hull Frontage and work by East Riding of Yorkshire Council at Hessle and Paull are part of a number of tidal flood alleviation projects that form part of the Humber Flood Risk Management Strategy.

The Environment Agency and local partners are now in the process of developing an advanced approach to managing flooding in tidal areas by the River Humber for the next 100 years.

In addition to the work on the Humber frontage, more than £100 million is being invested in river and surface water flooding in Hull and the surrounding area.

In the past 65 years, there have been three major tidal events in Hull, the last was in December 2013 when 264 properties were flooded due to the overtopping of the existing defences. During high tides, water levels have the potential to rise to around 1 – 3m above some parts of the city.

https://www.waterbriefing.org/home/flooding/item/15765-green-light-for-hulls-%C2%A342m-tidal-flood-defence-scheme