New modular bridge installed over M42 ahead of schedule


Laing O’Rourke joint venture LM has completed the installation of a 65-metre bridge, spanning the width of the M42, in just two days and ahead of schedule as the motorway reopened to road users today (9 August) 22 hours earlier than planned. The bridge is the first permanent structure to be delivered for HS2.

In an engineering feat led by British engineering specialist Expanded, working on behalf of HS2 enabling works contractor, LMJV (Laing O’Rourke and J. Murphy & Sons Joint Venture), the 2,750 tonne bridge structure was carried along the motorway on a self-propelled modular transporter. The 448-wheel transporter took just one hour and 45 minutes to move the bridge span 150 metres into position, where it was affixed to a composite concrete deck to complete the overall bridge structure.

The successful installation marks the completion of the first of four bridges to be built close to the new Interchange Station. It will form part of the major remodelling of the regional road network to improve the circulation of traffic around the HS2 railway line and connect the existing road network to the new Interchange Station.

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This new road bridge is the first permanent structure to be installed along the route of Britain’s new railway, so today represents an important milestone for the project and the West Midlands region.

“Constructing the bridge off site and using innovative engineering practices to install it over the motorway enabled us to carry out the work in just two days, keeping disruption to a minimum for road users.”

Mark Thurston HS2 Ltd's CEO
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This is British construction design and engineering innovation at its finest. Major components of the bridge and its supports were built offsite under safe, high quality conditions, then transported to site for assembly. Advanced digital capabilities allowed us to design all elements of the structure in a virtual world, before building it for real. Great work by the team for delivering the placement ahead of schedule!”

Simon Russell LM project director

The new road bridge over the M42 was built using a Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) strategy. Expanded Structures led the construction programme on site, with 1,610 tonnes of precast and insitu concrete delivered, including 115 modular abutment shells and 298 precast deck components.

These major structural elements of the bridge supports and deck were made at Laing O’Rourke’s Centre for Modern Construction (formerly EIP) in Nottinghamshire.  Regional supplier Cleveland Bridge supplied 1,130 tonnes of steel plate girders.

The modular bridge strategy has been developed by Expanded over several years and was successfully implemented on several major projects, such as the A453 upgrade and the Staffordshire Alliance upgrade to the West Coast Main Line. Digital design and modular construction methodology have the potential to dramatically improve delivery on major infrastructure projects.

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Offsite manufacturing and modular construction offer substantial benefits in terms of greater efficiency, higher quality, safety, and reduced time on site and disruption to local communities and road users. By delivering factory made components and assembling them on site, we have constructed abutment walls in 5 days, compared to between 8-12 weeks for traditional methods, achieved with a site team averaging just eight operatives.”

Peter Lyons Business Unit Leader, Expanded

Later this year, a similar operation will take place to position a bridge over the A446, also as part of remodelling of road networks around the future Interchange Station. The LM team will also be installing two further bridges which will span the high-speed line itself.

Mr Thurston was joined on site to observe the bridge being moved into place by West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street; Solihull MBC leader, Councillor Ian Courts; MP for Meriden, Saqib Bhatti, Midlands Connect’s Director, Maria Machancoses and Nick Brown, Chair of the Urban Growth Company. The delegation joined forces to mark the engineering milestone, recognising it as an important first step in cementing the West Midlands’ status at the heart of the HS2 network.

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Seeing major construction activity like this in Solihull is hugely encouraging as it shows HS2 is now truly underway. In just a few years, the HS2 station at Interchange and further investments in public transport will help make Solihull one of the best-connected places in the UK.

“Today’s work also comes at a critical time for the West Midlands, as we look to bounce back economically from the coronavirus crisis. Major infrastructure projects like HS2 have a critical role to play as they help stimulate demand and create and secure local jobs for local people.”

Andy Street Mayor of the West Midlands

Over 9,000 people and 2,000 UK businesses have been part of the HS2 journey so far, and it is estimated that the project will support at least another 20,000 roles as it hits peak construction.