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HS2 pioneers first ‘box-slide’ bridge over motorway

HS2 joint venture contractor Balfour Beatty Vinci has started preparations for the first UK box slide for a rail bridge over a motorway.

The Midlands project was originally planned as a traditional structure, which would have meant significant traffic disruption for motorway users, with around two years of reduced lane widths, 50mph speed limits and weekend and night closures.

Now the team will build the whole structure on land next to the motorway in readiness to jack the 10,000t box into place in one movement.

The ‘Marston Box’ bridge slide near Junction 9 of the M42 in North Warwickshire will be achieved in only two one-week closures of the motorway over a 12-month construction period.

The M42 will be closed for one week for the first stage of preparation work between Christmas and New Year 2021, with plans to move the structure into place during a week’s closure in winter 2022.

This method also dramatically improves the health and safety of the workforce, who won’t need to work in close proximity to a live carriageway.

David Speight, HS2 Client Project Director, said:“At HS2 we’re always looking for innovative ways to reduce our impact on local communities, and this UK-first ‘box slide’ provides a quicker and safer solution.

“We’re working very closely with National Highways to ensure traffic management plans are in place, with a clearly signed diversion route to minimise any impacts during the motorway closure.”

Closure plan

During the one-week Christmas motorway closure this year, the team will remove the motorway surface, excavate 3m deep across the footprint of the structure, remove a redundant fuel pipeline and existing drainage system. Ground improvements will also be made in preparation for the box slide.

Two tower cranes will be erected on land next to the motorway to service the construction of the guide raft and box structure in early 2022.

The reinforced concrete raft will be constructed first and then the box constructed on top. It will be a reinforced concrete box structure with base, three walls and top slab, with part of the jacking mechanism cast carefully into the base of the box.

The box slide itself involves a jacking system designed by specialist civil and structural engineering company Freyssinet, which will push the box across on the guiding raft.

Once in motion, the box can reach speeds of over 2m per hour, so the whole operation of the box slide should only take 4 days, with a week closure required for the preparation, box slide and re-opening of the M42.

Robertson submits £150m Cardiff Arena plan

A Robertson Construction-led consortium has submitted a hybrid planning application for the regeneration of Atlantic Wharf in Cardiff.

A detailed application has gone in for phase one of the Butetown regeneration plan being promoted by the city council.  This sees the delivery of a new 17,000-capacity arena, hotel and associated parking.

The new arena has been designed to host the biggest names in the music industry, family shows, comedy, and sporting events.

It is anticipated, if planning is granted, that the construction of the new arena could commence in Autumn 2022.

Outline planning for the wider mixed-use masterplan would also see up to 1,150 new homes built, as well as office spaces, and leisure facilities built over seven years.

Nick Harris, group executive property director, Robertson, said: “Earlier this year we undertook public consultation events on the proposed plans and have been greatly encouraged by the positive feedback received from the local community. ”

tlantic Wharf plan

Phase 1: Construction starts on the arena and hotel in spring 2022, with completion in time for doors opening in 2025. This phase also includes building a multi-storey car park to replace the lost surface parking.

Phase 2: Businesses in the Red Dragon Centre will be relocated so works can start on a purpose-built facility to accommodate leisure, food and drink amenities. Plans include a new cultural centre incorporating the Wales Millennium Centre production space, potentially a National Art Gallery, and a ‘This is Wales’ fly-through visitor attraction.

Phase 3: A new 150,000 m2 office space delivered along with a 150-bed, four-star hotel.

Phase 4: A new neighbourhood delivering new homes and potential for retail and office space – this phase is dependent on relocation of the County Hall to a new, purpose-built building.


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Cut-price home builds quadruple maintenance cost

Housing associations could be paying over four times more in average annual housing maintenance after scrimping on building budgets.

That is the conclusion of an in-depth study by a leading cost consultant mapping average maintenance cost data supplied by 20 registered housing providers in London over an eight-year period.

Developer/ builder Mount Anvil commissioned Arcadis to attempt to quantify the true cost of lower quality new build against later operational costs.

Killian Hurley, founder and CEO of Mount Anvil, said: “Not considering what impacts Opex at the outset is like one part of the business taking out a payday loan and then asking another part of the business to pay it back, interest and all. Good idea at the time, terrible in the long run.”

He said: “Cost and time, the other two parts of the famous “triangle”, make themselves known early on in a project.

“Quality, however, is judged by resident happiness and long-run maintenance cost. That spend can end up 5 or 10x the upfront capital investment.

“But it’s only the latter that we scrutinise. So, we asked Arcadis to delve into this and quantify the true cost of poor quality — what does a pound or an hour misspent upfront cost RPs, the long-term holders of the homes we partner to deliver, in the future?”

Against a backdrop of scarce quantitive industry data, Arcadis focused on the leading housing association’s operational maintenance and repair costs.

Researchers uncovered wildly varying spends on maintenance, although original capex spend is not included in the published data.

From these results, it infers cutting corners on capex could be costing social landlords dearly in operational maintenance costs down the line.

Researchers found that average annual maintenance costs per unit differed significantly between housing associations within a single year, often by as much as 350%.

The range has been decreasing over time, but the costs at each end of the spread still differed by 250% in 2020.

Over the eight-year reference period, the average cost of a notional 1,000-home estate managed by registered providers associated with low maintenance cost was around £12m, whereas those with higher costs would typically pay £23m.

Another issue presenting challenges for housing associations is that maintenance cost inflation has outstripped rental income.

The gap between rental growth and the growth in maintenance costs was revealed to be between 2.0% and 3.1% per annum


Hurley said that the findings highlighted the benefits of thinking about operational issues early, minimising the future risk of excess maintenance costs through the design and construction of new homes.

He added that faced with multiple challenges regarding customer experience and decarbonisation, it was even more critical that the industry had a clear understanding of the interdependencies between Capex and Opex costs.

“With Capex investment likely to increase, it is essential to be able to evidence the advantage of investing in quality from day one.”

Other study conclusions

There is not a consistent methodology for recording cost-related assets performance

Industry silos between delivery, handover and operation still remain

Not all procurement routes are equal

Delivering quality is a team effort – collaboration between client, consultants and contractor is critical to success.

The future looks costly

RPs supplying data: A2Dominion, Catalyst Housing Group, The Hyde Group, L&Q Group, Metropolitan Thames Valley, Newlon Housing Trust, One Housing, Peabody.


Did you miss our previous article…