After 45 years being pummelled by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every week, the expansion joints between the composite concrete deck slabs on the 2km-long A19 Tees viaduct have reached the end of their serviceable life and need to be replaced.
The layout of the road and the operation involved means the work can only be carried out safely if one of the carriageways at a time is fully closed.
Planning for this operation, along what is a major strategic road in the North East, has required a huge amount of work by our A19 DBFO team over recent months to organise the road closures which are needed over a series of weekends.
Diversion routes had to be discussed and agreed with Highways England, local highway authorities and the emergency services. We also had to consult extensively with the local business community, plan for any forthcoming events and make sure road users were aware of the planned works, all with the aim of keeping disruption to an absolute minimum.
Then the country began facing up to its biggest public health crisis in decades, as the impact of COVID-19 was felt in the UK and beyond.
With Highways England striving to continue its work to keep motorways and major A-roads open to support distribution of supplies and key workers getting to work, our team is taking the opportunity of the reduced traffic flow to accelerate these essential works.
With traffic levels below normal, it makes sense to complete as much of this operation as is possible now, so as to further reduce disruption to drivers when things return to normal, according to Project Manager Andy Sinclair.
“We were planning a job to minimise the traffic disruption and suddenly it has all disappeared,” says Andy. “So, the programme has been turned on its head really. We are now trying to get as much as we can done, as quickly as we can, in line with the new Government and Construction Leadership Council guidelines we are working to.”
Effective leadership and good communication has been key to keeping our site people informed and on board during what has been a challenging time for all in the construction and civil engineering industry.
“People on the A19 are recognised as key workers and doing an important job for the country,” says Andy. “They are also recognised by our client Highways England for keeping the network operational, which permits deliveries to supermarkets, the work of couriers delivering to homes, and helping medical personnel and supplies to move freely around the country.”
To ensure compliance with Covid-19 Site Operating Procedures, additional control measures have been introduced, along with amended work methods to reduce the amount of social interaction on site. The Incident Support Units operating along the route were also reduced to single crewing more or less overnight, with our Kettering Plant Department team quickly sourcing additional vehicles to boost the fleet.
Autolink Concessionaires Technical Liaison Manager Ros Pluck said: “Safety was paramount when planning how we could continue to deliver services and schemes in line with HE requirements. The team, including main subcontractor Universal Sealants Ltd and designer Aecom responded well to this and really stepped up to the mark in terms of their enthusiasm and commitment.”
Just as crucially, the strong relationships we have established over the years with our various stakeholders have been hugely helpful in altering the programme.
“We’ve got really good links with local authorities and the police so, whilst we can’t physically meet, we’ve continued with that regular communication,” says Ros. “The relationships we had to start off with have proven their worth because we’ve had nothing but support from them as we’ve tried to continue with our business as usual.”
Doubling down on safety, accelerating operations to deliver on our clients’ needs, and working to improve the service to the public; our A19 DBFO team’s excellent work in this time of crisis is something we are extremely proud of.