“On all these jobs the risk comes at the start” - A11 project enters the final stretch
PUBLISHED: 07:05 16 April 2014
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Bosses on the £102m A11 dualling scheme are hoping for the sun to keep shining as the project enters the home stretch.
Developers Balfour Beatty have battled wind, rain and snow to make “significant progress” on the 9.1 mile stretch of road between Barton Mills and Thetford and could be finished in six month’s time.
Speaking yesterday, Richard Turnbull, project director for construction firm Balfour Beatty, said the scheme was over the worst of its challenges.
“In any project of this nature the weather is the biggest concern. If you cast your mind back to what it was like last year, with half the country under snow, it was a really bad start to the job.
“We then had a good summer to catch up, followed by a very wet winter which hit us again.
“We could still be affected again in the next few months so we are concerned about that, but the last few months we’ve made really good progress.”
The logistical challenges of the scheme have come thick and fast, with key features including a new bridge on the B1106, two underpasses and improvements to the Fiveways Roundabout.
Mr Turnbull said the Fiveways work had been especially challenging, with three weeks of weekend closures being necessary.
And in a process where up to 300 workmen are on site at one time, with erratic closures and disruptions affecting local life, communication has been of paramount importance.
Geoff Chatfield, project manager for Highways Agency, said this meant channels with the local community had been open at all times.
“We’ve actually had really good feedback from local councils and very few calls about delays and disruption.
“I think that’s because we’ve made a real effort to make sure people know what we’re doing here.
“Anyone who has ever driven down that road has experienced delays over the years, and decades even. That means we’ve had support from the public who understand what we are doing and why we are doing it,” he said.
Despite the disruptive weather, Mr Chatfield said the majority of potential pitfalls had already been dealt with.
“On all jobs this big the risks come at the start - when you get in the ground you’re never quite sure what you are going to find.
“We’re over those hurdles now and more or less working on the ground or above the ground which leaves a lot less to the unexpected.
“We have already built one of the carriageways so we know what to expect and our only risk is the weather,” he said.
The scheme’s strong progress has also contributed to its budget being slashed by 26 per cent, according to Mr Chatfield.
He said the Government had challenged the Highways Agency to cut its expenditure by 20 per cent across all projects.
“We’ve worked with Balfour Beatty to look at how we can make the design more efficient and cheaper without losing the advantages we want to get out of it,” he said.
“That means recycling materials and thinking innovatively. We are always challenging the contractors.”
Completion of the work could come as soon as September, according to Mr Chatfield.
He said he could sense the importance of the scheme to the local community, with the stretch being a “gateway to Norfolk”.
“People have been using phrases like “Norfolk will be open for business” and you can understand people’s optimism.
“It’s not just local people either. There’s interest from people across East Anglia for this and it will be a proud moment when it’s completed,” he said.
The EDP wants to hear how the dualling project will affect you. Let us know by emailing reporter Andrew Fitchett on firstname.lastname@example.org