Sharing Learning across Road and Rail Projects

Faced with a challenging infrastructure project there’s always a strong pull towards the familiar and the ‘accepted’ way of doing things, particularly when there are time and budget pressures. Historically, the sector hasn’t been good at saying ‘never mind how we usually do this, is there a better way?’

So, productivity remains in a rut. And road or rail users bear the brunt of disruption that might have been avoided. A true learning organisation is always looking beyond what it already knows. Such organisations want to know how things are done in other industries and other countries. They are not afraid to ask how a project could be executed if the goal was to have almost zero disruption.

Replacing mechanical movement joints on motorway bridge decks is an operation that typically calls for long-term closures, often at strategic locations on our overcrowded motorway network. When the motorway in question is the M25 – one of the busiest in the world – innovative thinking can deliver big rewards.

Instead of long-term lane closures the Connect Plus M25 community came up with a solution that involved fitting removable ramps (similar to road plates) over the joints. These could be quickly removed overnight to allow access for maintenance work and then put back in place before the morning rush hour.

The solution had its own challenges, not least of all designing ramps that cope with the load of a fully laden arctic travelling at full speed. After careful testing, the solution was first deployed on the QE2 Bridge at Dartford. Following the success of this trial it was then used on the eight-span Gade Valley viaduct.

The difference for road users from this innovative approach is incalculable – you only have to look at the traffic chaos caused by a single lane closure following an accident to get an idea.

The other big winner is safety of the workforce. Working on a closed lane on a live motorway always carries additional risk. A solution that allows work to be carried out at night on a completely closed road, but which allows normal traffic flows during the day has to be preferable.

The successful result has redefined how this type of work is carried out. It’s a testament to teamwork and a learning community. All partners – Connect Plus Services, designers Cowi, joint suppliers Maurier, and contractors Jacksons and Osborne combined to develop the imagination and courage to look beyond the normal ways of working and ask: is there a better way to do this?

This is the approach that Osborne brings to all projects, to find the best way to plan and execute the work. That might mean new materials, new technologies or just simply exploring all the options to work differently to improve quality and safety and create less disruption to the transport network, now and in the future.