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River Meon Unforeseen Asset Failure


EM Highways (EM), Highways Agency (HA) and R&W worked collaboratively, efficiently and effectively when the revetment on the M27 River Meon Bridge showed signs of slippage on 29 January 2014.

Following an inspection, the EM structures team was alerted to a serious issue with the bridge revetment which displayed signs of a one metre subsidence since the previous inspection. R&W was asked to carry out temporary stabilisation works, but it quickly became evident that a more permanent solution was needed.

An emergency conference call took place with HA on Thursday 6 February where the team was faced with the worst case scenario of having to close the M27 from Junction 11 to 9. However, the team collectively came up with a fully detailed, designed, costed and approved working solution that enabled the motorway to remain operational by only closing one lane. An emergency TTRO was put in place, and the Police and NCC were informed.

R&W mobilised within 24 hours, providing over 60 on the ground multi-disciplined personnel and, using our own specialist excavators, we removed 4,500 tonnes of failed material from the embankment.  We crushed concrete in our yard in Winchester to manufacture granular fill to form a new stabilised revetment and toe to the embankment. Despite extreme weather conditions of torrential rain and strong winds, all emergency works were completed by Monday 10 February at 5am. We prevented significant rush hour disruption and avoided a massive inconvenience for Hampshire road users.

The solution required the team to work shifts, covering the 56-hour period non-stop.

EM, HA Area 3 team and R&W demonstrated highly effective teamwork, flexibility, trust, problem-solving skills and exemplary collaboration throughout this emergency. The M27 is one of the busiest routes on the Area 3 network, reporting in excess of 110,000 vehicle movements per day, so all parties involved were fully aware of the impact that the worst case scenario would have on the travelling public and were tasked with mitigating this risk.

HA placed its full trust in the delivery team when taking part in the emergency conference call to agree the planned solution. HA approved the TTRO, relying fully on the delivery team (including R&W) to deliver the works as specified.

The success of this project demonstrated a collaborative approach to team working, encapsulated the fully-embedded ‘can do’ attitude of the R&W Area 3 team, showcased the ability to provide flexible, effective emergency solutions and, while under pressure, remain aligned to HA’s goals – in this case, responding more effectively to incidents that cause the most congestion, and improving customer service.

When dealing with challenging projects, R&W looks to innovation to keep solutions cost effective and to help us meet tight time schedules.

To carry out the works, R&W used the hard shoulder to park all its plant and equipment and lane one as the haul road, with the other two remaining open for traffic. We used specially adapted excavators to allow for the restricted headroom of the bridge. We also used crushed recycled concrete for the granular fill rather than stone. We were able to apply this methodology as we use our own proprietary waste recycling and material processing facility to produce the material and, therefore, could provide large amounts in a very short space of time, and at a lower cost. Our involvement in ECI discussions ensured that we could start production of the required materials rapidly. In using recycled material we kept the works as sustainable as possible. Having an R&W director full-time on site enabled us to respond rapidly to a complex and changing situation. We were able to make regular assessments and implement process improvements or changes without wasting any time. A director’s presence also ensured that both workforce and client confidence was high at all times.

One of R&W’s corporate commitments is to achieve excellent customer satisfaction. Both the HA and EM were highly impressed that we were able to develop and cost a solution, present the scheme, and mobilise within 24 hours of being briefed on the problem. We were able to draw on the full range of our specialist services to undertake all the work which led to a fast response and saved the client time and money otherwise spent on employing multiple contractors. Specific works carried out by R&W included: removal and reinstatement of material; temporary revetment drainage; temporary storage and subsequent disposal of material; temporary works arrangements; removal and reinstatement of signs; removal and reinstatement of highways boundary fencing; temporary ducting work and duct realignment; kerbing installation; and footway installation. Our clients were also impressed by the speed with which we could repair the abutment (over one weekend) and by our solution that allowed the traffic to keep moving.

At the Area 3 Supply Chain Community Awards that year we received HA’s Special Customer Service Award in recognition of the work delivered by the team.

Great customer feedback was also received from EM Highways at the time, some of which is listed below:

Email from Andy Harrison, Area 3 Construction Manager, EM Highways: “I would like to sincerely thank everybody involved who has put so much effort into achieving the mammoth task undertaken from 2100 on Friday night through to Monday morning. From an emergency meeting which I called on Thursday afternoon to mobilising for approximately 4,500t of excavation of embankment and replacement with granular fill. I think the photo records say it all really – installation of Varioguard, protecting NRTS cables and all the other organisation which had to take place…WHAT A GREAT TEAM WE HAVE IN AREA 3, FANTASTIC JOB EXTREMELY WELL DELIVERED!!”

Email from James Haluch, HA Service Director, EM Highways: “Huge thanks from the EM Head Office team guys. I have been keeping Dave Wright and, in turn, the Mouchel Chief Executive informed of the issues and mitigation at River Meon. This emergency has once again demonstrated why the Area 3 integrated team are exemplars in delivering a great service to our customers. Well done all.” 

Email from Rees Evans, Area 3 ASC General Manager, EM Highways: Dear All – I would also very much like to add my thanks – clearly an excellent team effort by all concerned. Brendan/Howard – please pass on our thanks to the workforce who have clearly put in a lot of effort throughout the weekend.”

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