Roads roundup

Crucial repairs to safeguard the future of Spaghetti Junction have been extended to spring 2016. The Highways Agency is currently replacing vital waterproofing at The Gravelly Hill Interchange in Birmingham, known the world over as Spaghetti Junction. Engineers have found clusters of damage around loadbearing supports and joints – the location of which will make the necessary repairs very challenging. In some areas, water has breached the old waterproofing, damaged the concrete deck and corroded the internal steel reinforcement. "We expected to carry out concrete repairs as part of this work,” explained project manager Jess Kenny. "But we were also aware that we wouldn’t know the full extent of what needed doing until we began the work and were able to remove areas of the road surface. Unfortunately, we’ve now discovered that the location of the damage is such that the repairs will be more extensive and take longer than at first thought, so the work won’t be completed until next year." Spaghetti Junction is now more than 40-years-old, and carries the weight of 200,000 vehicles every day. Engineers will have to tackle the repairs in small sections, as the integrity of the bridge structure would be compromised if large areas of concrete are removed. “We’d love to be able to pull up all the surfacing and complete this work in one go: but that would seriously weaken the integrity of the bridge deck and cause a real threat that the structural stability of the bridge will be compromised,” Kenny explained.

Government is providing £350,000 of funding to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for a study into a new Stockport bypass.  This funding is the latest stage of the implementation of the South East Manchester Multi Modal Strategy. 

Latest ‘Road Traffic Forecasts 2015’ predict that levels of traffic will increase on motorways and major roads by up to 60% in 2040 compared with 2010 levels. For principal roads the increase from 2010 to 2040 could be as high as 51% and for minor roads the prediction is up to 54%. Car ownership is predicted to increase from 25 million in 2010 to 35 million in 2040, an increase of 42%. Road Surface Treatments Association chief executive Howard Robinson used the figures to continue his call for more to be done to address the road repair backlog – not just on strategic links but on the £12bn local road backlog. “Decades of under investment means that our road networks are unable to cope with the impact of current traffic levels let alone an increase of between 50 to 60%,” he said. 

The new headquarters of Highways England - the company that will run motorways and major A roads – has been opened in Guildford, Surrey by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin. The new company replaces the Highways Agency on 1 April and will be responsible for delivering more than £15 billion of investment by 2021.

The Welsh Government has awarded Costain/VINCI Joint Venture (represented by Taylor Woodrow and VINCI Construction Grands Projets), the first stage of an ECI contract for the M4 Corridor to the south of Newport. This new 24 km long section of motorway includes a 2.5 km long cablemstayed viaduct above the river Usk, two key interchanges and 36 structures. Price of the project is £750M. 

Former RAC Foundation director Stephen Glaister has joined the board of the newly named Office of Rail and Road which will monitor performance of the rail industry and newly formed Highways England. ORR has launched a public consultation setting out its proposed approach to a new monitoring regime to track Highways England’s performance in delivering its major roads investment programme. The consultation also sets out ORR’s strategic objective on securing improved performance and value for money from the strategic road network, and explains how ORR will hold Highways England to account. ORR is seeking comments from all interested parties by 19 June.

Start date for Highways England has been confirmed by roads minister John Hayes as 1 April when the new company and its £15.2bn budget will go “go live”. 

Campaign for Better Transport has demanded action after research exposed the illegal air pollution impacts of planned hard-shoulder running on the M4 through outer London and major commuter towns. The Highways Agency is planning to turn the hard shoulder into an extra lane between Hayes and Reading (Junctions 3-12). Campaign for Better Transport looked at the details of the predicted air pollution impacts in the Highways Agency's own reports. This revealed how the extra traffic generated by the scheme would breach air pollution laws and mean large numbers of people would continue to be exposed to illegal air pollution. The organisation has called on the Highways Agency to amend its plans to, either: remove all-lane running from the proposals, reserving the hard shoulder only for congested times, as in the original Managed Motorway schemes, which still had beneficial effects on congestion, or reduce the speed limit at all times to below 60 mph.