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Stretching south

Autolinks roughly 250M award last July was not only Scotlands first DBFO road project but also one of the UKs most complex. The concessionaires construction arm, M6 Joint Venture, is a grouping of Autolinks own partners; Amey, Sir Robert McAlpine, Taylor Woodrow and Barr.

This JV has a 100M contract to upgrade the final 28km stretch of A74 to motorway. The same contractor is also expected to convert a separate 8.8km section from Gretna south across the border into England. But the Scottish Office has put this 70M option on hold pending publication of governments roads White Paper this spring.

The JV has another contract to maintain the whole 100km Scottish length of the road to be renamed the M6 from Millbank south to the border. Autolink has a 30 year operating concession though has, so far, awarded its contractor only a five year term.

The current dual carriageway near Moffat shares the same steep sided valley as the West Coast main line railway and a winding salmon river, Evan Water. Its upgrade involves 17.6km of new alignment cut generally through the wooded hillside, with the rest involving either parallel or symmetrical widening of the existing road.

An extensive value engineering exercise has resulted in some 10km of the route being marginally realigned. Instead of planned parallel widening, with extra lanes added only on one side, engineers have opted for symmetrical widening with new lanes built both sides.

This redesign has pushed some sections of the contract 20 weeks behind the original programme. But hoped for faster construction should see an overall contract saving of about two months, with the JV off site by July next year.

And, with Autolink standing to gain or lose around 50,000 a day in shadow tolls, the benefits of early completion are considerable.

At present, earthworks are half complete and will, weather permitting, continue through the rest of the winter. A major environmental programme is under way, including badger and adder protection, plus an array of 40 site runoff settling lagoons to satisfy strict river pollution controls.

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