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Highways England

Enabling Smart Motorways on Spaghetti Junction

Mouchel was appointed by Highways England for the Birmingham Box Phase 3 Managed Motorway (BB3MM) M6 Junctions 5-8, introducing infrastructure, technology and systems to the M6 and enabling Smart Motorways to operate on the M6 through the West Midlands.

We provided design office support throughout the construction phase, including specialist advice in many technical areas including structures, technology infrastructure and systems, environmental, geotechnical, operations and safety – managing the “as built” record delivery and handover documentation, while also providing both CDM co-ordinator and road safety auditor services.

Overcoming technical challenges

BB3MM was unusual as the majority of its length on the M6 is carried on viaducts, including the 5km Bromford viaduct and ‘Spaghetti Junction’. This provided incredible technical constraints and challenges in designing and installing Smart Motorways technology on such an elevated and extremely narrow corridor including 35 gantries, 27 message signs and 172 signals.

For example, the structural work included the refurbishment of existing gantries which, when taken down and examined, revealed they had not been constructed to the requirements of the original drawings and consequently were unsuitable for re-use.

This presented the project with a major challenge with eight gantries that had to be replaced from scratch – some to be mounted to viaducts and others to the ground. We worked closely with Ramboll, our specialist gantry designer, to overcome this and other challenges throughout the project. Our success was recognised in 2013 when Highways England awarded Mouchel (and Ramboll) its Supplier Recognition Award for Supply Chain management.

Other technical achievements included:

  • installing a remote wash wipe system for hard shoulder CCTV;
  • using remote interrogation fault monitoring capability for equipment – the first project in the West Midlands to do this;
  • minimising the number of gantries needed by challenging current HA standards;
  • developing safer maintenance access to existing gantry platforms that can be transferred to other locations in the future.

Surpassing everyone’s expectations

The Birmingham Box 3 Phase 3 project demonstrates excellent technical delivery which provided, on completion, a safer and less congested motorway with more predictable journey times for hundreds of thousands of users every day.

To date, the project has gained recognition through six awarding bodies; it has been shortlisted in 12 of 14 categories submitted, resulting in five awards and four commendations, most recently being highly commended for customer experience in the Highways Agency Supplier Recognition Scheme awards.

You can find out more about Smart Motorways, how they work and what you’ll see by watching this short video from Highways England.

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“THE CONCEPT OF SMART MOTORWAYS – USING TECHNOLOGY TO MANAGE TRAFFIC FLOWS, INCLUDING HARD SHOULDER RUNNING – WHETHER AT PEAK TIMES OR PERMANENT - MET WITH FIERCE OPPOSITION WHEN IT WAS FIRST PROPOSED. IT IS NOW THE CENTRAL PLANK IN THE HIGHWAYS AGENCY'S PROGRAMME OF MODERNISING MOTORWAYS.”

Graham Dalton, Chief Executive, Highways Agency