Articles

M25 junctions 27-30 Widening

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Skanska Balfour Beatty Joint Venture was required to widen 215kms of the M25 from three lanes to four between junctions 27 and 30 on behalf of Connect Plus, who maintain and operate the motorway for the Highways Agency. The project started in 2009 and completed in May 2012, two months ahead of programme.

Scheme Monitor George Humfrey, who visited the site, said in his report: “The clear commitment being made by everybody involved to operate safely, responsibly and with consideration to those they work with, and the wider community, is exemplary.”

The site was awarded a score of 38.5 out of 40 against the Scheme’s Site Code of Considerate Practice and Suzy Keeley, Community Relations Manager for Skanska Balfour Beatty Joint Venture, tells us more about the project.

Scope of works

  • Widen from three lanes to a four lane carriageway in both directions except through some junctions.
  • Discontinued hard shoulder at bridges.
  • Retaining walls and regarded slopes.
  • New verge-side lighting.
  • New gantries and variable message signs.
  • Improve drainage including balancing ponds.
  • Environmental mitigation measures.
  • Replace central reserve.

Challenges

  • This was a fast paced project requiring both day and night working. At the peak of the project the team was working 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
  • Widening works had to be carried out in very limited working space.
  • Limited work space and position on the live carriageway of the workforce meant that health and safety had to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind 24/7. Along with inductions, zero harm and injury free environment initiatives, the team received ongoing training throughout the project. Back to work inductions and project director briefings to the workforce maintained this health and safety thinking. Signage and VMS messages were placed around the main compound and out on site.

Traffic Management

  • The need to maintain three lanes in contraflow.
  • Overnight and/or slip road closures as necessary.
  • Temporary 50mph running with average speed enforcement, all agreed in advance with local police and other stakeholders.
  • 24/7 free recovery available from the carriageway.
  • Drivers and their passengers were able to use the Customer Care Unit where they could wait in safety for their own recovery service. The Unit included a kitchen area, vending machines, playhouse and toys for children, payphone, tv, and toilets with baby changing facilities.
  • Black and yellow temporary signage was placed on new gantries directing traffic into correct contra flow lane for the Dartford River Crossing. This was the first time this had been done and worked very well. Without this, many drivers would have found themselves at the Dartford Crossing in error.

Environment

Environmental initiatives included:

  • Imported sheet piles from Luxemburg, effectively a ‘local’ supplier; alternative suppliers were located in the Far East. The sheet from the sheet piles is manufactured from 100% scrap steel using a highly efficient electronic arc furnace, which contributes to a 75% reduction in embodied carbon. The carbon impact of sheet piling is further reduced by the combination of the AZ profile along king pile system (long pile with short intermediate piles). This reduced the quantity of steel required by 30%. The overall result was a saving of 44,000Te CO2e.
  • The majority of aggregates were produced on site with 98% recycled content achieved, with the remaining quantity procured under schemes conforming to BES 6001.
  • 100% of timber is procured under responsible sourcing schemes from sustainable forests.
  • Materials and CO2 emissions reduced when slip forming retaining walls up to 2.3m high.

A member of the team noticed a kestrel roosting in the concrete batching plant. He obtained information on the bird from the internet and set about building a kestrel nesting box to the correct dimensions and placed it 15m high on the batcher. A camera was connected to the outside of the nest which meant the team could observe the kestrels throughout the day. The hard work paid off as eggs were laid and hatched successfully. The nest had to be moved this year to a tree near to the original nest, with the local farmer giving his agreement to this, and the kestrels are now happily settled in their new location. While the team were re-locating the nest, the kestrels were seen flying above, keeping a watchful eye on their moving home.

Other environmental actions included:

  • An evening presentation and talk given by the environmental team to members of the Wildlife Centre.
  • Presenting three kestrel nesting boxes and an owl nesting box to the Wildlife Centre. These boxes were made by members of the team.
  • Donating some recycled wood to the Wildlife Centre. The wood will be used for fencing off certain areas and marker posts along walkways.

Good Neighbour

Over the three years of the project, members of the team have raised money for local charities, whereby each year a different charity has been adopted. Some of our charity work has included:

  • Donating to Little Havens Children’s Hospice.
  • Raising money for Women’s Aid to sponsor a course so that a group of 12 children in their protection could attend a confidence and self-esteem course held by the Essex Fire Service, which included a ‘Passing Out Parade’ at which local dignitaries attended as well as members of the project. The course cost £4,000.
  • Making a donation to CRASH.
  • Donating £3,425 to Macmillan Cancer Support.

A family day was held one Saturday so that our team could bring their families to see where they work. Industry mascot Ivor Goodsite welcomed them and gave a health and safety briefing. Big trucks, fire engines, small animals, demonstrations etc., were available throughout the day to keep families entertained.

Through the project, we carried out a number of school visits to teach children all about health and safety, as well as holding a few competitions. The schools we visited were Sawyers Hall School, Pyrgo Junior School, St Peters Church of England School South Weald, Dilkes Primary School, and William Edwards Academy, Grays. During Thurrock Crucial Crews week held in July, we gave 76 presentations to 916 children from 20 local schools.

We also provided a number of work experience opportunities for students which allowed young people to have some real world construction experience. For example, two of our engineers worked with a group of 12 students who are refurbishing an area in the school grounds known as Primrose Island. The students were taught how to take measurements and make scaled diagrams so that they could plan where to place their fishing stages, and tables and chairs for the outside study area. Other students went through the full induction process and were then allowed to go out on site, shadowing one of our engineers. University students also spent their summer break with the team working on site and gaining valuable experience.

A key focus within being a good neighbour was looking after the local residents. Examples of consideration towards the local community include:

  • Arranging for one elderly resident, who is terminally ill, to be taken to Arsenal’s football stadium for a tour of his favourite club.
  • Donating cones to a resident who is starting a horse riding school for young children.
  • Providing noise fencing for residents living alongside the carriageway.
  • Providing extra planting for residents living near to the carriageway to improve the view from their property.
  • Stopping the works in the area of one farm for one day due to a family wedding take place.

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Safety

A ‘stop for health and safety’ day was held in July 2010 and included external speakers and suppliers demonstrating new equipment, and health checks from nurses, while having some fun as well. Assistance from the nurses to help people stop smoking, as well as general health checks, have been ongoing. Throughout the project, senior management stressed and supported the mantra ‘if it’s not safe, stop work and report it’. Every person working on site underwent an induction, including understanding the Scheme’s Site Code of Considerate Practice and received pocket cards to remind them. A film for site operatives, produced by the Scheme, was also shown to explain what it means to be working on a registered site and the behaviour that is expected. Every person also received driver training, as well as drugs and alcohol testing.