Highways England: Paving the way to smoother journeys


An exclusive report from Highways England on how new equipment is helping boost its productivity. 


Resurfacing a major trans-Pennine motorway while causing the minimum disruption for drivers will always be a tricky task.

But, thanks to a new piece of kit, Highways England and its contractors, A-one+ and Tarmac, are working hard to considerably reduce the duration of resurfacing work on a scheme in West Yorkshire.

The Wirtgen W 250i cold milling machine (pictured) is the first of its kind being used on the UK’s strategic road network. This unique machine has the capability of planing one full-lane width up to 3.8m wide in a single pass, unlike the standard method of doing multiple passes. 

And it can remove around 600 tonnes of asphalt per hour – the equivalent of 30 trucks, which means the road is ready to be resurfaced much earlier than using the standard method, creating a longer working window. There is also an added safety benefit to the machine, as 50% of the reversing is eliminated.

The planer, along with the Volvo 8820 paver, has been used to resurface 54.5 lane kilometres of the M62 between Rothwell and Normanton (junctions 30-31), the biggest Yorkshire resurfacing scheme to start in the last financial year.  

The wide paver can lay two full width lanes of road surfacing at a time, eliminating one of the joints between the lanes, which is often where potholes can develop. This ensures the road surface is more robust to the cold winter climate, particularly those conditions just recently experienced in Yorkshire. 

Highways England’s project manager, Andy Barlow, said: ‘We are always keen to trial new innovative technology and methods of working, particularly where it can help improve productivity, enable roadworks to be completed quicker and minimise the disruption for drivers. Utilising Tarmac’s wide paving machine on the M62 scheme was the ideal opportunity. 

‘This machine not only has the benefit of being capable of laying up to 1,500 tonnes of surfacing material in a single shift but is also able to resurface two full lanes in one go. This eliminates the joint between the running lanes, which would be present if we had done the more traditional method of resurfacing a single lane.

‘As these areas are often the locations where problems with the carriageway surface occur, this method should hopefully increase the life of the running surface. 

‘I witnessed first-hand the machine in action. The amount of material being laid, progress made by laying twice the volume of material in a shift, and the resultant benefit of reducing the amount of time required on site to complete the work, was an impressive sight to see.’

Overall the M62 scheme involved replacing 6,143 metres of steel central reservation barrier with concrete, along with 24 new lighting columns, 38,962 metres of new road markings and 3,768 metres of renewed and improved drainage systems. 

A new technique used by water companies to carry out vital drainage work was also adopted on this £11m scheme. Instead of carrying out significant excavation work to replace the pipes, the existing drainage system was repaired and re-lined. 

The new process saved three weeks – and allowed Highways England to take advantage of this time by increasing the scope of the scheme to include additional vital road resurfacing work. The number of nights worked on the scheme each week was also increased from five to six to increase productivity. 

Additional work was also undertaken during the scheme, including using a piece of special equipment that hoovers up the litter. This ensured that future disruption along this route was kept to a minimum while not affecting the end date of the current scheme. 

Linda Carr, A-one+ senior project manager, said: ‘We are always looking at ways we can increase productivity to achieve our efficiency targets and the success of this whole scheme was through real partnership working, from end to end with Highways England and our supply chain, specifically Tarmac and National Road

Planing for traffic management and planing, and CR Civils for drainage and civils.  ‘Managing a scheme like this without risk was a crucial element that we approached together through early detailed stakeholder and supply chain planning. Ensuring all parties agreed shared scheme objectives and were fully engaged from the outset. 

‘Work was carefully planned to avoid conflicts with other work planned on local roads, or major events. Our supply chain supported this by making sure sequences of work activities were followed.  

‘Using these two new pieces of equipment - the Wirtgen W 250i cold milling machine and the Volvo 8820 paver - together, we were able to reduce working hours and closure times which in turn increased the safety of our road workers and benefited customers and local communities. We were also able to incorporate additional works into the scheme, averting future closures.

‘Scheme success here was through working to a common goal, using Lean tools and methodologies, working collaboratively and embracing innovation. Working alongside each other, we found the best solution to meet safety, delivery and customer expectations.’

The resurfacing work was carried out under full carriageway closures overnight when traffic flows were at their lowest to minimise disruption for drivers. Carrying out the work in this way also helped to reduce the overall duration of the scheme as the larger pieces of equipment could be used, creating a larger output per shift.

Jamie Town, general manager of Tarmac’s industry-leading road planing contractor, National Road Planing, said: ‘In collaboration with Highways England and A-one+ , we have been driving improved productivity with the introduction of our innovative new high-performance planer and wide paving machine as part of a push to boost output and lean efficiency.

The Wirtgen W 250i cold milling machine with 3.8m drum is the first of its kind being used on the UK’s strategic road network and we’re delighted with the positive impact it’s had on the M62 project.   

‘The high performance of this machine offers the capacity to plane existing surfacing quicker, allowing contracting teams to lay new asphalt sooner, while the double width paver allows two lanes to be laid seamlessly without a joint. Together, they not only enhance the surfacing process but improve quality and rideability of the newly laid asphalt surface and reduces disruption for drivers.

‘With a need to operate in very tight working windows, all disciplines successfully worked together to identify where these innovations could contribute to time being saved and Lean best practice embraced.’

There are plans to use the larger planer and paver in the future on the motorway network. 

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