Over nearly two decades, Skanska UK has been upgrading highways and major roads through our work for National Highways (formerly Highways England), one of our key customers.
During that time, we have constructed new motorways and main arterial roads, completed complex junction improvements, built bridges and improved local networks for drivers and pedestrians.
Here are just a few of the major projects delivered during this period:
- M25: Upgrades to 29 miles of the motorway in two sections between junctions 5 to 7 and junctions 23 to 27 through Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire.
- M1 Junction 19: The complete redesign and rebuild of the intersection of the M1, M6 and A14.
- A14: Where we opened a new 12-mile Huntingdon bypass a full eight months early.
“We are proud of our successful history in consistently delivering projects on time and budget, while developing innovative solutions with our partners that raise industry standards,” says Glennan Blackmore, Operations Director (Highways). “But Skanska UK isn’t resting on our laurels and we’re very much looking to the future.”
In 2018, Skanska UK secured a place on the National Highways £8.7 billion Regional Delivery Partnership (RDP) framework, for the East and Midlands regions. It’s under this framework that we are delivering our two current projects, the A428 and M42 junction 6 improvement schemes.
“On the A428, we’re creating a new 10-mile dual carriageway in the east of England that will link the Black Cat roundabout near St Neots and Caxton Gibbet,” says Project Director, Willie McCormick.
“Our key milestone for this year is to secure our Development Consent Order (DCO), which means the proposed scheme is approved by the Department for Transport and we can begin main construction. We’ve already completed some archaeological works which is being talked about in a series of podcasts.”
Chris Good, Project Director on the M42 J 6 scheme adds: “We’re now a year into delivering the M42 Junction 6 improvement scheme having been given Notice to Proceed in February 2021. We have completed a third of our extensive earthworks package in preparation for building a new junction 5A on the M42, and a 2.4 km dual carriageway which will link to the existing A45. Once complete, the new junction will reduce congestion and improve access to key hubs including the NEC, Birmingham Airport and Jaguar Land Rover. It’s also creating capacity for HS2.”
Glennan adds: “Through RDP, we’re seeing more collaborative ways of working. It means we have shared goals with our customer and improved integration with our partners, leading to innovation, streamlined procurement procedures and better value for money. It also creates a much more inclusive working environment which is great for everyone involved.”
This collaborative mindset is also fuelling innovation. Here are just a few examples.
- Low carbon reinforced concrete trial: An industry-first low carbon reinforced concrete solution is being trialled on the M42 Junction 6 scheme. It compares traditional steel reinforced concrete with a low carbon concrete reinforced with basalt fibre, a composite material, on a temporary haul road for construction vehicles. Basalt has a 60 per cent lower carbon footprint and is five times lighter than steel. The low carbon concrete mix has a 50 per cent lower carbon footprint than widely used conventional concrete mixes.
- Digital rehearsals: Building on the success of digital rehearsals held on our water projects, our teams have carried out digital rehearsals on the M42 junction 6 scheme and the A428. This enables everyone involved, including the customer, designers and suppliers to walk through a digital version of the scheme in a virtual environment. Everyone is able to interrogate the project and detect any clashes or issues and resolve them before the project commences in the real world.
- Mental health and wellbeing: This new initiative launched in January 2022 on the M42 Junction 6 scheme helps Mental Health First Aiders to be more visible. All employees who have undertaken Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England’s Mental Health First Aid course, now display a Mental Health First Aider sticker on their construction hard hat. This means that everyone on site, no matter their role, knows who they can talk to, should they need support.
Glennan says: “We’re working to further embed our relationship with National Highways, working with them from the very earliest stages so we can support them in meeting their long-term objectives.
“Once we get on site, delivering to time and budget is essential but, it’s a minimum requirement. We need to deliver safely, and in ways that help National Highways to achieve their targets – including around net-zero carbon, social value and raising industry standards. This all aligns to our purpose and values, so there is a great fit.”
Government has announced a £27bn investment in roads upgrades, so there are excellent opportunities for Skanska. Glennan concludes: “There is plenty of work out there. Our priority is to select the right projects that match our core offer and skillset.
“It’s a great time to be working in the highways sector and we’re looking forward to the exciting years ahead.”