It’s not every day you get to deliver a multi-million-pound piece of infrastructure and a new-born baby within a few weeks of each other.
From left to right: Terri Seel, Esther Redpath with baby and Adam Gallis on the new A45 footbridge
But for Esther Redpath, our engineer on the £282m M42 junction 6 upgrade near Solihull, little did she know the important delivery of personal and professional milestones would coincide.
Esther gave birth to a little baby girl some 12 weeks after the new footbridge was lowered into place across the A45.
In her role on the M42 Junction 6 scheme Esther managed the installation of the bridge and worked closely with designers and fellow engineers to make sure the 92-tonne footbridge was installed safely.
Given the scale and complexity of the work involved, Esther says a key part of her role was also maintaining her own health and wellbeing during her pregnancy.
In this short video Esther talks about her role, the challenges she faced during her pregnancy and how she’s looking forward to returning to work. She discusses the solutions they, as a team, have worked through and put in place to ensure she is able to do her job while keeping safe and healthy.
Esther said: “My primary focus was always to get the bridge built safely and it was a real team effort to make sure that happened. I’m incredibly grateful to say that I worked on the project with some lovely people. I told some trusted colleagues quite early on during my pregnancy so they could look out for me to make sure my health and wellbeing was taken into account. One thing I did struggle with was the first trimester of pregnancy. I was physically very tired and really struggled to make it through a full day of work. I would get home and want to go straight to bed.
“Once things got further along in my pregnancy and I told more people, I had lots of support – the health and safety lead at Skanska worked with me to put together a risk assessment. This was good because it meant I could continue work on site right up until eight months, without putting the baby at risk. The team also adapted how we worked collaboratively. I wasn’t able to work at height so as a workaround some site engineers would check the bearings for me. I stayed on the ground, and we used our mobile devices to keep in touch on-camera which allowed me to see what was going on above my head.”
The new footbridge will make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the busy A45 near the Arden Hotel. Given the proximity of the road to the nearby West Coast Mainline, putting the new structure in place wasn’t without it challenges.
Esther added: “One of the key challenges we faced was the proximity of the bridge to the West Coast Mainline Railway. Once we fully understood the requirements for working near the railway, we had to work out how we lift the bridge into place to ensure we didn’t risk damaging any railway infrastructure. We overcame this challenge by working collaboratively with our supply chain, but also by seeking specialist input from other people in Skanska who were able to help us navigate the safety requirements for the railway.
“The new footbridge bridge itself is quite different to bridges I have previously worked on, as the deck is only made of steel, rather than a combination of steel and concrete. Large parts of the bridge were built in a factory away from site, which has been an interesting process to see.
“We then moved the bridge to site in sections, bolted it together and lifted it into place. From a site perspective there is months of planning and preparation to get to the stage where it can be moved into place, and it involved methodical planning to ensure everything went smoothly.”
National Highways Project Manager, Adam Gallis, said: “Esther was an integral part of the team that delivered this part of the project and her attention to detail was inspiring. The new footbridge provides a safe and accessible route for pedestrians and cyclists wishing to cross the A45. It’s certainly a legacy that Esther and her little baby can be proud of.”
Terri Seel, M42 Project Manager said: “We pride ourselves on being an inclusive project. Together with Esther we made arrangements so she could comfortably continue working throughout her pregnancy until she was ready to go on maternity leave. This meant she was able to successfully deliver the bridge, something that was important to her. Esther is excellent and a real asset to the team. We are very much looking forward to having her back.
Esther added: “My proudest moment is seeing the main deck get lifted into place across the A45. There had been a huge amount of preparation leading up to the night of the working being done, but the hours flew past and it all went very quickly.
“And I’m proud to have made a difference to the local community.
“The new bridge provides a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the A45. We have heard from some local residents that say they are excited to take their grandchildren across the bridge to reach the train station and go for a day out. I’ll look forward to the day when my daughter grows up and I can show her the bridge and explain my role in leading the installation of it.”