The challenge – Removing a serious traffic bottleneck by replacing a narrow bridge over a busy railway line

The objective of this major project was to replace the narrow bridge (which dated back to around 1837) over the busy electrified West Coast Main Railway Line.

The bridge carried three lanes of traffic (30,000 vehicles per day) on a strategic route which serves major economic areas as well as the main access to Birmingham Airport from the motorway.

As well as having weak parapets and substandard waterproofing and drainage, due to its narrowness the bridge was no longer ideal for traffic.

A new bridge was to be created with increased lane widths and an additional carriageway lane segregating traffic travelling from the M42 northbound to the Airport from other traffic which would be double the width of the existing bridge to accommodate four lanes of traffic.

The improved bridge design aimed to improve traffic capacity, reduce congestion and improve general highway safety.

The £12m project funded by the Department for Transport, Transport for West Midlands and Birmingham Airport, was managed by SLC Rail on behalf of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with Carillion as the lead contractor.

The solutions we created – A ‘One Team’ approach with communication and collaboration at its heart

The project was structured around an NEC Option A contract. All parties felt that the system of early warnings supported a partnership approach, with positive discussion and rapid resolution of issues.

A formal reporting structure was applied throughout, with an agreed timetable and templates. The format provided for concerns to be raised, problems to be outlined and the next few weeks’ works to be set out.

This approach minimised management overhead and ensured that the monthly meetings of the project board were consistently well informed and structured.

Throughout the project, communication was kept as a high priority. Formal stakeholder meetings were held every three months, with representatives from Birmingham Airport, the National Exhibition Centre, Resorts World, Local Parish Council, local hotels and local employers. Emergency service agencies, Highways England, as well as utility companies also attended during relevant periods.

The possession of the railway during Christmas 2015 was a key milestone. During the critical demolition phase, a detailed, wall-mounted information board was very effective at spelling out hour by hour activities and key contact details.

Given the tight deadlines, a culture of ‘right first time’ was fostered in the project team. This included the need for full and proper preparation before starting any piece of work on-site.

A snagging list was established well before the end of the project. This enabled Carillion to address the greater majority of the remedial work during the job and conclude the project with very few issues to resolve.

Outcomes, benefits & social value – On time, on budget, with less traffic congestion

All objectives were achieved fully. All of the possessions of the railway were handed back on schedule. Feedback from local residents and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive.

During the project and at its conclusion, feedback from stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive. The very low volume of complaints and the tone of media coverage suggests that the travelling public had realistic expectations and were happy with the way the project met their needs.

The new bridge has given the Council, as Local Highway Authority, the opportunity to implement a safer highway layout, including a dedicated lane from the M42 motorway to Birmingham Airport plus a separate cycle lane and footway.

The wider bridge and improved road layout have eased traffic congestion, as modelled. Although the economic benefits are less immediate, feedback from major local employers has been very positive.

Councillor Ted Richards OBE, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways commented:

“The replacement of the A45 South Bridge removes a significant pinch point on one of the busiest roads in our borough. The new bridge will ensure continuous accessibility to one of the UK’s most economically important locations.

I would like to thank Carillion, SLC Rail and Solihull Council officers for their exceptional project management skills in managing the successful replacement of the A45 South Bridge.

Overcoming significant risks, the A45 South Bridge ‘One Team’ delivered this major project on time and without significant disruption to the high volume of road and rail users who pass through this area.”

Team

The £12m project was funded by the Department for Transport, Transport for West Midlands and Birmingham Airport. It was managed by SLC Rail on behalf of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with Carillion as the lead contractor.

Awards

  • UK Rail Industry Awards 2017 – Outstanding Project Medium (£3m-£20m) – Winner
  • Constructing Excellence Award, West Midlands – Project of the year Civil Engineering – Winner
  • Institution of Civil Engineers, West Midlands – Partnership award – Winner
  • Institution of Civil Engineers, West Midlands – Construction award – Winner

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