Full project details
Following a two-and-a-half-year project to widen one of the most congested roads in the UK, the A453 in Nottinghamshire was officially reopened by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
The A453 was one of the most inefficient road links between two cities in the country, and with forecasts suggesting that traffic along it could increase to 30,000 vehicles a day, it was time to take action before the situation worsened.
Laing O’Rourke began work in 2013 to widen the route: creating a 9km dual carriageway along the rural section between Mill Hill and M1 junction 24; and expanding 2.5km of the urban section between Farnborough Road junction in Clifton and Mill Hill to four lanes. It involved constructing 10 major structures including bridges across the River Soar, a railway line and a canal, moving 800,000m3 of earth and working around thousands of kilometres of services such as 130kv electricity cables, gas pipes, water and other telecommunications.
Project leader Nigel Fullam explains: “In two and a half years, we have built a major dual carriageway with minimal disruption. I’m aware how disruptive work like this can be - it has been important to recognise that and minimise it as far as possible.
“At the same time, the work has brought important economic benefits to the local area, because we procured much of our supplies and labour locally. Around 60% of our workforce lived within an hour of the site.”
Rob Edwards, project manager for our client Highways England, says that the widened A453 will provide significant economic benefits to the region. “The Nottingham area has been constrained in the past because of access,” he explains. “There are quite a few manufacturers in the area that will expand if they have good access. So this is going to release a lot of development potential.”
He adds: “Laing O’Rourke brought value to the project by using the Explore Industrial Park manufacturing facility. We had eight new bridges to build and the precast work from Explore was of a very high quality. The environment of a workshop rather than making components onsite, obviously brings excellent quality and economies of scale. I think that was a real plus.”
Rural and urban
The 11.5km of road includes a 9km rural stretch running largely through open country. This brought significant challenges, however, such as working next to E.ON’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. We had to ensure there was no disruption to the power supply and that cranes could operate safely close to the 400kv overhead power lines.
Along the rural section of the road, we built a new 5km carriageway on the south side of the existing road before building a completely new 4km stretch of dual carriageway across open country.
A further 2.5km of the road runs through the busy urban area of Clifton, where the space to work was restricted and where continuous access was required for several premises, including Nottingham Trent University, a Tesco store and a petrol station.
It was essential to keep traffic moving and the road had to remain open except for a few overnight closures for essential work. To help limit disruption, we used the latest technology and construction techniques. All of the structures were built virtually within a digital engineering model first, and each component was then manufactured at our Worksop factory before being delivered in sequence for immediate installation.
Section engineer Joe Heptinstall, who worked on the rural section, explains: “Effective communication had to be maintained throughout the construction phase of the structures. The logistics were planned accordingly, with the site team ready for each component upon delivery. Efficient installation of the components was paramount, especially when lifting during road closures.”
Digital engineering also played a significant part in mapping services such as telecommunications cables. A digital map of services was developed showing both their location and their depth to ensure that new drainage could be installed without damaging them and that workmen avoided hitting them during excavations.
Section engineer Joseph Maltezos, who was in charge of the urban section, explains: “We used the digital engineering model because there were a lot of services in my section. In fact, there were thousands of kilometres of telecommunications and electricity cables, as well as water and gas pipes. The model is the reason that we didn’t have any major strikes during construction.”
He adds: “The priority was the safety of pedestrians and traffic users and, of course, our workforce. Obviously, working next to traffic is dangerous, so we put up a barrier between the traffic and the workers. We also put up speed cameras and reduced the speed limit to 30mph, just to make things safer for everyone.”
Working with our stakeholders
Working closely with motorists, local people and organisations such as local authorities and residents’ associations has been essential, and the project liaison team sought to respond quickly to any issues. Thousands of letters were also sent to alert people to imminent closures or any major work. And the team sought to respond to any concerns about the work within 24 hours.
Project liaison manager Claire Brough says: “Last year it became apparent that we would be doing quite a lot of work at night during the summer. So we would be working outside people’s windows when they had young children who were trying to sleep. Some work was necessary at night because we were not allowed to shut the A453 during the day.
“I have got two children myself and I understand the pressures on the construction team but also the impact on families. We had pre-work briefings every night to remind our teams to work considerately and we introduced vehicles with white noise beacons, which are quieter. We also brought in oscillating rollers. There are only a couple of these machines in the country and the vibrations they cause are not airborne, so they are quieter.”
Rob adds: “The public liaison team did a very good job. We had local clinics on a monthly basis where people could call in. I went to a couple of them and there was a good procession of people going to speak to the team there. It’s important to people to be communicated with..”
The public liaison team also worked with local schools, organising a project in which Laing O’Rourke created a sensory garden for Nethergate School for children with moderate learning difficulties and complex needs.
Members of the construction team have also visited local schools to talk to pupils about the construction industry. Joe Heptinstall began work on the A453 immediately after finishing his civil and structural engineering degree at Newcastle University. He was pleased to visit Farnborough School in Clifton to explain to pupils what the industry had to offer.
He says: “I spent a couple of days at the school. I found it really interesting talking to young people who were keen to pursue a career in the construction industry. They just wanted to get a feel for the job and what it involves."
In total, Laing O’Rourke staff donated 230 days of volunteering to local causes during the A453 project.
Protecting the environment
Environmental manager Sally Grewcock explains that the project achieved an impressive environmental performance, with between 95% and 99% of waste diverted from landfill every month.
We took a sustainable approach to managing earthworks to minimise the amount of material exported or imported to the site and to reduce lorry movements and their associated carbon emissions. We carried out extensive landscaping, with 130,000 trees and 45,000 bulbs planted. The project has achieved an ‘Excellent’ rating under CEEQUAL, the evidence-based sustainability assessment, rating and award scheme.
The widened A453 is expected to bring a £540m boost for the regional economy. It has now been named Remembrance Way to honour the 453 British service personnel killed in Afghanistan.