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M5 Falfield Drainage Works


R&W worked with the Skanska team on the back of the long-standing and trusted relationship built up over the previous three years to develop a robust price and programme for carrying out the M5 Falfield drainage works.

Completion of a comprehensive CCTV survey of the entire drainage asset, providing the Highways England (HE) and Skanska team with the information required to update HE’s database.R&W is highly experienced in successfully completing specialist drainage projects similar to the Falfield scheme, and was able to draw on this experience and knowledge in its ECI discussions with HE and Skanska, and throughout delivery of this £2m high profile scheme.

R&W’s extensive works at the site included:

  • Installation of 3.3km of new carrier drains of varying size and materials, gullies and kerb drains to cope with a significant increase in rainfall and to prevent recurrence of previous flooding issues
  • Installation of 3.5km of filter drains using new materials and off-site recycled materials that were then reused out on site
  • Drain lining works at various locations across the site, working with R&W’s supply chain partners
  • Removal and reinstatement of over 860m of VRS, including terminals
  • Installation of a linear drainage channel system

The R&W team was able to mobilise quickly, commencing within a week of receiving the order. HE’s imperative was to get the scheme completed as soon as possible and prevent a repeat of the flooding that led to accidents and a poor experience for motorway users the previous winter.

Having been involved in extensive reviews and negotiations with Skanska and HE before the works commenced, the whole project team was able to work in a highly productive partnering manner into the delivery phase. The team collaborated on all aspects of the work, in particular, in managing the change control process.

R&W demonstrated its ability to provide solutions to the challenges that occurred throughout the course of the works, e.g. when we attempted to excavate the old carrier drains and discovered that they lay beneath a reinforced concrete slab. To overcome this, we investigated the extent of the obstruction, produced a programme and cost estimate for keeping the original design, and assessed these against ‘no dig’ options, which included pipe bursting and pipe lining. Pipe bursting techniques were reviewed first as they provided a completely renewed asset. While the initial benefits seemed self-evident, the process required extensive working space and procurement of long lead-in specialist supply chain partners. This would have led to additional disruption due to reduced running lanes and delays to the programme. While this option proved impractical, it demonstrated how the combined team was prepared to challenge convention and seek new and innovative solutions to complex engineering problems in order to achieve best value.

The second option jointly explored with Skanska involved the relining of the drains, thus eliminating the extensive excavation works (including the slab break out) and necessary temporary works support, but still assuring HE Highways England of a satisfactory and suitable end product. Ultimately, this was the option we followed and the works were completed to specification.

This and other ‘changes’ relied on R&W’s ability to work flexibly on the scheme, and we regularly moved areas to keep our project teams productive. This approach helped to keep the programme on schedule and minimised the impact of the change encountered at the site.

The scheme, which was completed over the winter of 2015, required three narrow lanes to be installed on the south bound and northbound carriageway between Junction 14 and Junction 13. Closing just one lane would have provided more space for R&W to work, but we developed a solution using our zero tail swing excavators to keep three lanes operational, thereby reducing disruption while maintaining the safety of the workforce and the certainty of project delivery.

We recycled the filter drain materials using our in-house bespoke mobile filter drain recycling plant. The Skanska/R&W team viewed the cost, time and environmental benefits of using this equipment, which was specially adapted to meet the requirements of working in a highways environment and recycling filter drains, to be significant. In particular, the recycling and reuse of the filter drains to meet the original grading requirements saved on extensive material import and associated disposal; this was a major win for the project at the ECI stage and allowed Skanska to demonstrate significant benefits to HE.

On this scheme R&W worked alongside, and co-ordinated its activities with other members of the Area 2 supply chain for surfacing and lining. Working together as a team reduced the impact of the overall works and demonstrated best practice, value for money and effective collaboration at all stages of the project.

To further minimise disruption, the Skanska/R&W team programmed the scheme to run concurrently with R&W’s M5 MIDAS project, also being undertaken in Area 2, and all within the same adapted traffic management. This resulted in cost saving efficiencies for both projects and reduced disruption to road users.

Throughout the project, works were undertaken on ‘live’ drain runs, which required extensive over-pumping. This ensured that the carriageway remained clear of standing water and the general public was not impacted by the scheme.

This project demonstrates R&W’s ability to provide specialist drainage services in all areas of the South, working on large-scale, multi-sited complex drainage projects.

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