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Bridge wins award

The new ‘road over rail’ bridge on the A45 which has improved accessibility at one of the UK’s most economically important locations has won a prestigious national award.

The bridge located near to junction 6 of the M42, was successfully built on schedule and on budget, reducing traffic congestion and supporting economic growth in the West Midlands. On 9th February it won the ‘Outstanding Project’ category in the UK Rail Industry Awards for medium projects (£3m-£20m).

The crossing is in an economically strategic location, carrying the westbound lane of the A45 between Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre and the M42 motorway, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. It provides access to many local employers including Jaguar Land Rover.

The project was commissioned by Solihull Council to address mounting concerns over traffic congestion in this particular part of the road network and as a solution to increasing maintenance costs and concerns about weak parapets on the old Victorian bridge.

The principal contractor was Carillion, it was project managed by SLC Rail and Network Rail also played a significant role in the success of the project.

The project cost £12M with funding from Department for Transport, Transport for West Midlands and Birmingham Airport.

The bridge which carries traffic over the electrified West Coast Main Railway Line is used by around 30,000 vehicles every day.  All three lanes of traffic remained open throughout.

Councillor Ted Richards OBE, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways at Solihull Council said: “The importance of this project for the regional and strategic highway network really cannot be underestimated and this award is well deserved. The replacement of the A45 South Bridge removed a significant pinch point on one of the busiest roads in our Borough and will ensure continuous accessibility to one of the UK’s most economically important locations.

“I would like to again thank Solihull Council Officers, Carillion and SLC Rail and for their exceptional project management of this scheme. Overcoming significant risks, this major project was delivered on time and without significant disruption to the high volume of road and rail users who pass through this area.”

Ian Walters, Managing Director of SLC Rail added: “I would like to thank the UK - Central team at Solihull Council for entrusting this project to SLC Rail. There were some significant technical challenges around the rail aspects of this project but thanks to the hard work and commitment of everyone involved it was a great success.

Andy Brown, Operations Director for Carillion commented: “We are pleased that the joint Carillion, Solihull MBC and SLC Rail team working together on this complex and demanding project have been recognised nationally for their achievement in re-building a critical part of the West Midlands infrastructure. It has been an impressive demonstration of how to minimise the impact on the public through real collaboration.”

Notes to editor:

Technical challenges

· It was essential to maintain all three lanes of traffic throughout the project, yet the location was very constrained in space so it would not be possible to build the new bridge alongside the existing crossing. Instead the project was scheduled in two phases: First constructing a crossing with a narrower span immediately adjacent to the existing bridge, which could carry traffic following demolition of the old bridge.  Secondly constructing a second span to complete the full width of the new crossing. Because of the very constrained site, this required an innovative approach to earthworks and construction, using the TerraTrel reinforced earth system rather than sheet piles and soil nails.

· Due to the very steep embankments, constructing the bored piles would normally only have been possible during a possession of the line, which the project team wanted to avoid because of the implications for project schedules and associated risk. Investigation into alternatives suggested that a high torque, short height piling rig would be safe for use next to live lines and the team successfully made the case for their use to Network Rail.

· Before works could commence, it was necessary for Network Rail to move a signal. Because this unit was at the end of its life, Network Rail agreed to bring forward this element of the existing West Midlands re-signalling project.

Christmas deadline

· To demolish the old bridge, Network Rail offered a possession of the West Coast Main Line for 56 hours, over Christmas 2015. The next available possession would have been at least a year later.

· A single project team was formed across all parties, with shared offices and facilities and clear demonstration from the respective leaders that through all the unsociable hours and challenging work, everyone really was in it together.

· The project team took possession of the railway at 23:30 on 24 December 2015 and returned it ready for rail services to resume on schedule at 05:00 on 27 December 2015.


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