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Notts' French fancy

Highways - An Anglo-French team has produced an innovative design for the widening of the M1 in the East Midlands. Stuart Shepherd reports.

The 23km of the M1 in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is renowned for its congestion, particularly at peak times.

The good news is that plans are afoot to widen the road to four lanes in each direction. Notice to Proceed and an autumn start on site are expected and design and planning are already underway.

This section of the M1, from junction 25 where it passes the A52 up to junction 28 at the A38 near South Normanton, will be the Highways Agency's longest widening scheme to date. It also involves initial work for the longer, overall junctions 21-30 improvement scheme, that was included in the agency's Targeted Programme of Improvements, 2004.

The central section in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is being tackled first because of its already wide cross section, that allows for all the widening to be accommodated inside the existing land take.

The £340M Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) scheme is being handled by MVM, a consortium of Morgan Est, Sir Robert McAlpine and French contractor Vinci, with a Gifford/ WSP joint venture as designer.

The contract was awarded in January this year, by which time the team had already spent considerable time putting its Anglo-French bid together. MVM has been working on its designs in detail and gaining approvals for elements of its bid proposals.

'We have put significant resources and commitment into solutions that reflect the value the Agency places on the customer and road user, ' says MVM project manager David Welsh. 'This has included capturing signicant French innovation and methodology, used extensively on the continent but not yet widely seen in the UK, to keep traffic moving and reduce impact on the environment.' For the first time within a motorway widening project, there will be no contraow.

Road traffic will be completely separated from construction traffic and access to the verge works. MVM is also considering using a European-style moveable concrete barrier.

'The total separation of road user and site vehicles, and no access from the running lanes allows us to run motorway traffic adjacent to our works at 50mph, ' says Welsh. 'This offers a signicant benet in terms of congestion, as schemes in the UK generally run at 40mph.' Some aspects of MVM's innovative temporary trafc management system represent departures from the norm, but the design team is beneting from a single delivery team approach led by the Highways Agency's Tony Turton. Adhering to ECI principles, ideas coming through the supply chain and from key partners and stakeholders are being considered at the earliest possible stage.

'Long approval times pose a risk to the programme, so it's been very important for us to liaise with the Agency's Safety, Standards and Research team quickly, ' says Gifford/WSP design manager Steve Madge.

'They have been kept fully informed of design developments and innovations, such as the movable concrete barrier, and their early buy-in has been very rewarding indeed.' An American mobile barrier system similar to that being proposed for the M1 scheme has already been seen on the UK road network. The new European system required testing to comply with collision loads and deection criteria before gaining approval.

Improved protection is not the system's only advantage. MVM engineering manager Bruno Thet says: 'The barrier can be transferred from one lane to another at a speed of up to 6mph. This is particularly useful for night working when you can promptly take away a running lane and just as quickly return it in time for the morning peak period. As the equipment lifts hinge linked blocks rather than dragging them, this causes no damage to the carriageway.' By running the project on-line, within the existing land take, the contractor has disposed of the need for a public inquiry.

This also means that - almost exceptionally for an ECI scheme - the project has no conventional phase 1A (see box). This presents its own challenges and presents a steep learning curve into phase 1B.

It also demands some smart engineering to meet demands for up to 23km of retaining walls and geotechnical work - satisfying the requirements of the environmental statement - in each direction.

'There are just a few slopes where we can regrade to the top of the bank, ' says Madge. 'In the main, we must use retaining walls. Learning from our French colleagues, we are incorporating precast solutions to minimise interference to road users.' Time and cost savings are driving much, if not all, of the innovation between junctions 25 and 28. A series of pavement tests has already been planned by MVM and Gifford/WSP to identify where sections of the existing hard shoulder can be retained and overlaid rather than excavated and recycled.

The French EME2 specication for base and binder courses, still new to the UK market but reecting changes in pavement design standards (see EME2 feature on page 40), is also to be incorporated into the widening. Time for earthworks could be reduced by up to 30% by using Vinci's Elarex - a mobile hopper and conveyor belt on the body of an excavator that also houses rollers for a synthetic geotextile membrane - to lay the road's foundation.

The initial illustrative design inherited by Gifford/WSP for widening the underbridges included demolition of all existing wing walls, lengthening the abutments and reconstructing new wing walls. But by cropping into the top of the existing wing walls and sitting new beams of variable length on the cropped wing walls, MVM will reduce both the amount and the duration of the works.

A drive for 'design for maintenance' has been helped by this year's new CDM regulations, says Madge.

Solutions have been developed to either eliminate or reduce potential future risks.

'Stakeholders such as the Agency's East Midlands Managing Agent Contractor, AM Scott, have been brought into the integrated project team, ' says Madge. 'Understanding their requirements has enabled us to make changes accordingly and to offer bespoke solutions.

These include switching from central reservation to verge lighting on two sections between junctions 25 and 27, a response that suits both the maintenance workforce and the road user.'

Typical Highways Agency scheme phasing Phase 1 comprises the preliminary design process and promotion of the scheme through to completion of the statutory process.

l Phase 1A is the period to the publication of draft orders or the issue of the environmental statement for a scheme;

l Phase 1B is the period from publication of draft orders to the issue of the Notice to Proceed to Construction by the employer.

Phase 2 comprises the completion of detailed design and construction of each scheme. It covers the period from the issue of the Notice to Proceed to Construction to the issue of the nal Defects Certicate.

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