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Stansted shuffle

COVER STORY - M11

Last weekend also saw a major cone shift at Junction 8. Here May Gurney's £38.5M contract to construct new sliproads into Stansted Airport has reached a key stage. More space is needed on the eastern side of the M11 to complete the new structures for the remodelled junction, so one southbound lane had to be diverted on to the northbound carriageway.

A series of overnight closures starting on 5 March was scheduled, with the last taking place from 8pm on Saturday to 8am Sunday. When the motorway re-opened the traffic flows were effectively a mirror image of the original 40mph limited contraflow set-up which had been in place since May last year.

During that time May Gurney, now just past the halfway mark in its 64 week contract, has substantially completed the realigned northbound sliproad to Junction 8 proper. The steeper embankments caused by cutting back slopes to create space for the extra sliproads have been stabilised by environmentally friendly grass nailing. Culverts have been extended, piers on two existing bridges under the Junction 8 roundabout strengthened.

Earthworks are more than 75% complete, despite the usually disruptive combination of wet weather and heavy clay soil. The 80,000m 3surplus cut over fill, which would normally have had to be disposed of off site with 8,000 HGV movements, was instead used surplus to landscape the area, a win-win solution.

Dominating the area around Junction 8 is the innovative curved steel through girder bridge which carries the new northbound sliproad into the airport. Five sections of the girder, fabricated by Fairfield Mabey and weighing up to 60t each, are already in place, with the next section due to be lifted in after Easter and the eighth and last lift scheduled for 12 April. The first 600m 3pour on the approach viaduct has already taken place.

Two massive Armco culverts to the east of the motorway have also excited the curious. Rather than water these will in fact allow the passage of horses and pedestrians, carrying an existing bridleway under the new sliproads. The realigned southbound Junction 8 sliproad also passes under these slips, in a concrete underpass currently under construction.

Drivers bound for Stansted's distinctive passenger terminal will also encounter some major structural works at the Priory Road roundabout, where the existing route into the airport from Junction 8 joins the main airport access dual carriageway. The new sliproads from the M11 will cross above the roundabout on two innovative concrete bridges before linking into the dual carriageway to the east.

Apart from the success of the closely monitored 40mph speed limit through the works, the other similarity to the Junction 6 project is the use of crack and seat to renew 3km of the carriageway around Junction 8.

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