Bypass work comes under the spotlight

Adam Robson and Mark Smith of Carillion and President Rhona Dunn.
Adam Robson and Mark Smith of Carillion and President Rhona Dunn.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Mark Smith, Project Engineer, and Adam Robson, Building Information Modelling (BIM) Engineer, are working on the new Morpeth Northern Bypass.

The contract is being delivered by Carillion, originally part of the Tarmac Group. Mr Smith started working in the region with Mowlem Civil Engineers, which was acquired by Carillion in 2006. He had previously worked on the Pegswood Bypass, completed in 2007. Mr Robson’s role is to work on cost control and design using sophisticated computer software.

The new bypass is 3.8km and will cross the A192 at Fairmoor, north of Morpeth, to link with the Pegswood Bypass at Worrall Bank. The main compound for the project is at Northgate. A new separated junction on the A1 is being built, with a cycleway and footpath to the junction from the west. As well as new roundabouts, there is to be a new bridge at Fulbeck, a large culvert for the Cotting Burn, and a larger one at How Burn with a cutting.

There are many issues to plan for, including landowners to liaise with on access, new street lighting, especially at the A1 interchange, new traffic signs, trees and landscaping to shield the surrounding land, and wildlife corridors. Work started in February 2015 in mud and floods as trees and hedges had to be cleared before birds began to nest.

There is to be 15km of fencing, 50,000 square metres of stonework, temporary licenced land to stockpile soil and sub-soil, and 10km of land drains.

Drainage is bad from Pegswood Moor and it is poor land to build a bypass over. Groundwater is present that has a tendency to rise to the surface. A total of 520 tonnes of concrete units have been lifted into place to allow the road to be built over the Cotting Burn. There will be four or five ponds to hold water in times of heavy rain and to regulate the flow into watercourses. The total earthworks will be 120,000 cubic metres.

Looking at the A1 section at the junction, a temporary barrier has been put up alongside the A1 and there will be retaining walls of reinforced earth at Fairmoor. When laying the road surface in April, traffic will be temporarily taken off the main road and onto the slip road, and there is a bridge to be built in the centre of the A1.

There is a bypass website about developments and when and where there will be road closures and diversions.

A monthly drone flight is operated along the route to take photographs and videos of progress. Mr Robson is a licenced drone pilot, but the drone must not be flown over a live carriageway.

Carillion has appointed five local apprentices to work on the project.

It is a massive logistical problem getting the plant and material to where it is needed. A 30m wide track through farmland north of Morpeth and Rose Cottage at Fulbeck had to be made. There is a smaller compound at Whorral Bank.

Ecology is a major concern. There are newts, nesting birds, bats, otters, water voles, shrews and badgers. A group of toads was rescued from Pegswood Moor and moved to a safe haven. Workers take great care with fences not to disturb possible bat roosts by the How Burn and Cotting Burn. There are badgers and water voles, but local eco groups have been involved in what is going on.

Mr Robson spoke on his building information modelling work. The Government is very keen on the approach as it is hoped it will lead to shorter and cheaper contracts. A Government report found that on average public contracts in the UK were 20 per cent over time and budget.

The bypass will involve many utilities, including live electric cable, fibre optic cables, high pressure water mains and gas mains. Ground penetrating radar is used to pick up any man-made structures so that designs and planned work can be changed to avoid them. Sometimes arrangements will have to be made for a diversion of services.

Three-dimensional models of the schemes and the construction stages are used to look out for potential issues. They might find a manhole in the way of a wall so re-plan the locations. The first stage is to look at drainage, and six to 12 months later, which traffic signs will be needed. Starting with the 3D model, a timescale is added to provide for 4D planning. Information on existing services, drains and soft spots is put into the model. It is used to look for ways to improve the programme that will save time and money.

Four-dimensional videos are prepared of the whole construction process and a careful note taken of the health and safety implications for the public and the workforce. Risk assessments are carried out. The videos are used to explain to workers what is to happen and discuss issues as they go along. Frontline workers often give valuable suggestions on how things might be done better.

The talk ended with a drive-through video of what it will be like to travel along the bypass when completed. This is on the website.

Questions included asking about the culvert capacity. Water should be only a third of the way up, even in the worst conditions. The culvert had to be big so that the bats would not fly into the embankment. Some land will be made more valuable as it will now have access. The St George’s roundabout does allow for future development. Two of the ponds are on farmland, north out of Morpeth.

The vote of thanks was given by Rotarian Peter Scott.