This week, I was given a tour around the Grantham bypass construction site, where work has stepped up on what is hoped to be the much needed answer to the town’s traffic woes.
A month ago, construction began on the long-awaited relief road, after a £3.6million contract to build the first of the project’s three phases was awarded by Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) to Fitzgerald Civil Engineering.
Since then, around 100 lorry-loads a day have brought in 10,000 tonnes of materials a week to carry out the necessary groundwork on the site, off Spittlegate Level. With the land to the west a former quarry, a membrane which binds any loose earth and fissures together is being laid under the site and compacted by bulldozer to create a strong foundation, while still allowing water to permeate through.
As shown in red on the map, phase one will include a roundabout to the east of Spittlegate Level, where fencing has been erected and the footpath and land dug up. To the west, extending from the existing Tollemache Road North, will be a new 490m stretch leading on to a four-arm roundabout.
Furthermore, as LCC’s project manager Sam Edwards explained during the tour, they have been able to make a start on the next section leading to the A1, orginally part of phase two, after spotting an opportunity to make savings.
“We didn’t have enough top soil and thought we were going to have to bring some in, but by starting this we’ve now got a slight glut of top soil and don’t have to bring more in, saving time and money,” he said.
This area, (marked within the rectangle on the map), is now known as the phase one extension. The team received further good news this week that puts them ahead of schedule.
“Planning identified there may have been archaeological finds in there,” said Sam.
“We had archaeologists in doing a mapping exercise, which they finished this week. They only made minor finds, which have been mapped and recorded, so we can now proceed. We had allowed for a two-week delay in case of any finds so we’ve now gained that time back.”
Also delighted with progress so far is project leader Les Outram. He has spent the past four years pulling together the resources required, and continues to advise on planning matters, as well as keeping an eye on how the phases will link together. Admitting that there have been periods of frustration, Les said: “To actually get a start on site is really good, not only on phase one but with the site extension for phase two which is a cost effective measure.
“There are many benefits of the Grantham southern relief road. One, of course, is reducing congestion in Grantham. It also affects the growth potential for Grantham, particularly with the HGVs that travel through. They have their associated problems with bridge strikes, and once the relief road is totally complete we should have those HGVs out of Grantham, unless they need to be in there.”
With phase one currently looking set to meet its spring 2016 completion date, they are now preparing to select a contractor for phase two – a bridge underneath the A1 with slip roads and two roundabouts either side (shown in green on the map).
Les added: “For phase two we are currently looking at calling in a contractor in about a month’s time. We’re in that process at the moment so can’t say who that is, but we are looking to be on site for phase two probably around May or June of next year.”
The county council is pleased to be working with Fitzgerald on phase one, which has prior experience of delivering multi-million pound road developments across the Midlands. However, due to EU procurement rules they need to seek another contractor for the second, higher cost phase, which will fall under the Midlands Highway Alliance rather than solely Lincolnshire.
Work has been subcontracted to those with expertise in the three key elements – earthworks, drainage and carriageway surfacing. Opportunities for new job creation have been limited so far, as phase one mainly involves operating heavy machinery, but it is hoped that new roles and training schemes will be incorporated in the future.
LCC is working closely with Anglian Water, Western Power Distribution and BT, and with Spittlegate Level businesses, to maintain access. Two-way temporary traffic lights will be in use on Spittlegate Level, and two-way traffic flow should be maintained on the A1 throughout.
The third phase will see the bypass continue east across the Witham Valley, the East Coast Main Line and River Witham with a bridge to join up with the A52 at Somerby Hill. It is this that is the focus of Larkfleet’s repeated legal action (see p7 for latest result). Les said: “All I can say is that Larkfleet’s challenge has been to court several times and I’m more than happy with what the courts have concluded.”
The aim is to have the whole bypass operational by 2019, and within budget. “The total project cost is circa £80 million,” said Les.
“As with the phase one extension, if there is any opportunity to bring that cost down, then obviously we will.”