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Laying the foundations of the new A14 – the largest jigsaw in the UK


By Ben Comber


A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct
A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct

The construction is pioneering new technologies, such as a pontoon and CCTV control room.

A14 upgrade - non motorised user bridge
A14 upgrade - non motorised user bridge

Three months after main construction of the £1.5billion upgrade of the A14 in Cambridge-shire began, its project manager has given a sneak peek of progress made so far along the road to completion in late 2020.

The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme is the biggest currently in operation by Highways England, which manages the motorways and major roads in the country.

Archaelogical digs have been carried out by a specialist team, and there are plans to display the findings to the public.

A14 upgrade - map
A14 upgrade - map

Chris Griffin, A14 project manager at Highways England, said: “As yellow diggers have become a familiar sight along the A14 corridor in Cambridgeshire, drivers will have noticed the changes along the existing A14. But there’s plenty happening that they might not have noticed.

“The narrow lanes, temporary speed limits, cones and barriers we’ve installed allow workers to build accesses for construction traffic and carry out vegetation clearance ahead of the bird nesting season, while keeping disruption on the road to a minimum and keeping road users safe.”

All trees that have been cut down are being used as biomass for energy production locally. The intention is to plant more trees when the project nears completion.

A14 upgrade - control room
A14 upgrade - control room

Mr Griffin continued: “We’re committed to keeping the main roads at full capacity during the day, so we only use overnight lane or carriageway closures if it’s absolutely necessary, like, for instance, if we need to install signs or barriers, carry out pavement surveys or strengthen the carriageway where heavy machinery will need to cross on a regular basis.

“We’ve installed CCTV cameras along the A14 so we can actively manage disruption to road users from a dedicated control room within the scheme’s main compound. This helps us to stay aware at all times of conditions on the road and to take measures quickly if things don’t go to plan.”

Away from the gaze of the CCTV cameras, the foundations are being laid for a new 750m (0.46-mile) long viaduct which will traverse the River Great Ouse and the surrounding flood plain, bypassing Huntingdon to the south.

A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct
A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct

Mr Griffin said that it is a significant part of the scheme and a complex task.

“This bypass is a brand new road so is being built away from the existing A14, with no disruption to road users other than when plant occasionally cross local roads while travelling along the new construction haul roads.

“Work on this section of the project is progressing well and to schedule. The first step has been to install a pontoon which has a 52-tonne capacity, allowing fully laden dump trucks and plant access across the river.

A14 upgrade
A14 upgrade

“This pontoon is allowing us to install a temporary bridge so we can start building the viaduct itself.”

Construction of the foundations and columns for the viaduct is also under way, with plans for later this year to start installing the steelwork that supports the bridge deck and start casting the 800 concrete panels needed for the viaduct.

“We have also been building foundations for several of the new bridges,” Mr Griffin added. “People may have noticed our construction teams installing giant steel cages along the A1. Once these are in place, concrete will be poured around them to form the bridge foundations and we’ll be able to start building the bridges themselves.

A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct
A14 upgrade - artist impression of A14 viaduct

“I’m pleased with progress so far on the scheme. We have a challenging timetable to deliver the scheme and open the new A14 to traffic by the end of 2020, so it’s good to see the speed at which work is progressing.”



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