Clear we go: Vehicles rumble in to begin work on crucial culvert

An overview of the site being worked on as part of the Morpeth Northern Bypass project. Picture by Jane Coltman.
An overview of the site being worked on as part of the Morpeth Northern Bypass project. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The arrival of a 500-tonne crane heralded the start of work at a key milestone site along the route of the new Morpeth Northern Bypass.

The operation to construct a 52metre-long Cotting Burn culvert began this week with the on-site assembly of the giant vehicle that will be used to lift precast concrete sections of the culvert into place, creating a haven and crossing point for local wildlife living along this stretch of the new route.

Each concrete section of the culvert weighs more than 13 tonnes and with 76 sections in total, the two-tier construction will be carried out over two weeks, weather permitting.

The design of the culvert near the Northgate site offices was significantly influenced by local ecology. It has been designed to allow the local bat population to pass under the road.

There is also an ‘animal ledge’ to allow wildlife such as otters and badgers to cross.

Carillion project liaison officer Aln Elliott said: “Protecting the local ecology is of paramount importance and this culvert will serve as a haven for wildlife.

“As well as the measures for ensuring that animals have safe passage under the road, we’re installing an animal ledge as well as bat boxes for both summer and winter roosting.

“It was fantastic to see the crane arrive as it marks one of our first milestones in this project and serves as a visual reminder to everyone working hard on site that we are making fantastic ‘on time’ progress.

“The culvert work is a hugely complex operation and has taken months of planning. It will take many hours to complete, but ultimately will be a vital step along the route of the Morpeth Northern Bypass.”

Organising the arrival of the 56m-tall truck-mounted crane, provided by Mammoet, involved geotechnical personnel arranging an access road and crane platform, overseeing wide load escorts for the crane’s delivery and installing lifting eyes, which the vehicle attaches to and balances the culvert during the lift process.

The bespoke design of the culvert has been created with precast units, minimising many environmental issues associated with working near a watercourse and reducing waste by recycling left-over product.

Using these units allows for better tolerances as they have been made in a factory, allowing acute precision and a better finish.

The bottom segment will be laid, then back-filled, before the top half is put in place. During the process, there will be a team of up to 15 on the ground, including a transport team.

Mr Elliott added: “Everyone who has been, and will be, a part of this – from designers, manufacturers and ecologists to engineers, geotechnical personnel and our water management team – share our enthusiasm for this project and we’re delighted that we’re starting the physical process of creating a safe crossing point for our treasured local wildlife.”

The overall £30million scheme will create a 3.8km bypass to the north of Morpeth. It links with the Pegswood bypass, which was completed in 2007.

The route will start from the existing Whorral Bank roundabout on the A197 north east of Morpeth and head westward, connecting to the A192 at Lane End, Fairmoor.

It continues south westward until it intersects with the A1 trunk road, where an all-movements grade separated junction will be constructed west of Lancaster Park.

This section is referred to as St Leonard’s Junction and it will be similar in character to the one constructed at Stannington in 2004.