M6 Junction 10 work 'will not be repeat' of M5 Oldbury Viaduct delays
A two-year £78 million project aimed at improving the notorious Junction 10 of the M6 motorway will be delivered on time and cause minimal disruption to drivers, confident bosses believe.
Bosses say there would not be a repeat of the delays and issues that hit the M5 Oldbury Viaduct project, that was finally completed before Christmas – six months behind schedule.
The Highways England and Walsall Council scheme to replace two existing bridges and widen the roundabout will see the major construction start in July,
It is anticipated that work will be finished by spring 2022.
But despite the huge scale of the work involved project manager David Reed said disruption will be kept to a minimum.
Mr Reed said traffic will be kept flowing in peak times with only some overnight closures of the junction planned for the main bridge works.
The old bridges will remain open while the new ones are constructed next to them.
Other roads such as the Black Country Route and Bloxwich Lane, where improvements are also being made as part of the scheme, will also stay open throughout the work.
Mr Reed said: “A lot of thinking, thought and consultation with the council has gone into the planning.
“Throughout, we will keep the junction open.
"On the network, John Sisk – the local contractor – have it in their contract to retain a number of lanes.
“They may be narrowed and there may be cones but there are two lanes on the bridges at the moment – during the day there will be two lanes.
“At night there might be further restrictions but at peak times we are going to keep the local network flowing almost as it is. That should help reduce the impact.
“It would be wrong of me to say there won’t be any disruption but we are very much focused on limiting it as much as we can and keeping it open as much as possible.”
He added: “I am confident we won’t see a repeat [of the M5]. The Oldbury viaduct project was a very different project to Junction 10.
“As I understand it, they originally thought there would be 3,000 fixes to the bridge deck needed and it ended up being something like 16,000.
“For the M6 Junction, once we finish the grouting, it is relatively simple engineering. We’ve an experienced contractor whose worked on big projects with Highways England before.
“We are very confident we can achieve it within the timetables. We will keep traffic flowing and we are very excited to get into the construction phase.”
Mr Reed said the bridges were at the end of their serviceable life which would leave them with increasing levels of maintenance to tackle and the possibility of putting weight limits on them.
He said: “The bridges are not about to collapse. There are factors of safety with bridges and they are certainly not at the limit of those but as you get closer, you’ve got to do more and more to maintain them.
“It’s much better to get in, replace the junction and shore that up for the next number of decades.”
Councillor Adrian Andrew, Walsall Council deputy leader and cabinet member for regeneration, said the scheme was crucial to their plans to revitalise Walsall.
He said: “This is vital. We took a decision with Highways England a number of years ago to not replace like for like so we could future proof it.
“Instead of just replacing two lanes each way, it is going to be four lanes each way to improve congestion for residents and for businesses.
“We are really hoping this is going to be a massive boost to encourage people to invest in Walsall and to create jobs and make it easier for our residents to get to work and education.
“I grew up a quarter of a mile away from junction 10 so I know this area like the back of my hand and it has been getting progressively worse over the years.
“The fact we are doing this in what is a unique partnership between the council and Highways England and we’ve got an incredibly competent contractor on board is going to be good for Walsall and for the wider West Midlands region.
“Over the last few years, Walsall Council has been improving some of the junctions in readiness for this project such as in Bloxwich Lane, Bentley Lane, Churchill Avenue.
“It does take a long time for these things to come forward so it is fantastic that this is actually happening and we’ll manage it as best we can.”
The project has been five years in the making and the £78 million cost will be split 50-50 between Highways England and Walsall Council – who had secured £37 million through the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership.
Public exhibitions will be held in February while initial preparatory works such as site clearance and ground works will continue over the next few months.
Work on building the bridges and widening out the slip roads will start in July while work on the existing roundabout, Bloxwich Lane and the Black Country Route will be done in parallel.
The final activity will be the demolition of the old bridges before the expected completion date in readiness for the Commonwealth Games.