Following its appointment to Lot 2 of Highways England’s £8.7 billion Regional Delivery Partnership in 2018, the VolkerFitzpatrick team has been making progress to improve roads and infrastructure in the South East.
Construction began in March of last year and the team has already made great progress, upgrading junctions along a nine-mile stretch of the A27, enlarging Berwick roundabout and delivering a new dual carriageway, along the Polegate bypass.
The next step will be to deliver a 12km ‘non-motorised user access route’ between Polegate and Firle, for cyclists and pedestrians. This will link Polegate Station with South Downs National Park, encouraging more eco-friendly travel and providing a safer alternative to sharing the carriageway with motorised vehicles. Construction on the access route is due to begin this summer, with completion scheduled for Q3 2022.
As with several of the schemes, the A27 project is also undertaking social value initiatives to support the welfare of the team and the community. On 20 April the site held a Safety Stand-Down day, attended by a guest speaker from local wellbeing support organisation Sunflowers, who spoke to the team about mental health.
Following a design phase which began last year, works have now begun in preparation to widen the A31 Westbound to three lanes, between the Ringwood Roundabout and Verwood Junction. The scheme will require the removal and reconstruction of two bridges over the River Avon and Bickerley Mill Stream.
Due to the works’ close proximity to the river, the team is working with The Environment Agency and Natural England, to minimise the ecological impact of the project on the local habitat. The planning phase has incorporated mitigation measures to protect bats living in the area and the presence of spawning Atlantic salmon means the works must be carefully scheduled around their migration season.
Currently in the development phase, the team is also working on designs and programme planning for the delivery of a scheme to help ease congestion between the A34 and the M3 at junction 9.
To help foster an ethos of collaboration, Highways England has established a ‘Regional Centre of Excellence’ – a forum where all contractors within the framework can come together and share best practice. The regular contact helps all parties to stay aligned on key issues such as carbon, digitisation, off-site production, social value and the development of the teams and supply chains.
This ultimately ensures a consistent approach to delivery, whilst keeping Highways England’s imperatives front of mind for everyone: Safety, Customer Service and Delivering on the government’s Road Investment Strategy.
VolkerFitzpatrick’s relationship with Highways England also extends beyond Lot 2 and they are currently undertaking design and planning for works on the A417, in joint venture with Taylor Woodrow, as part of the framework’s South West improvements. In addition, the business has been appointed to Highways England’s Lifecycle Extension Works Framework, delivering specialist repairs to maximise the life of existing concrete surfaced motorways and major A roads.
Stuart Ayres, framework partnership director for VolkerFitzpatrick, said: “For us, it’s extremely important to maintain a fully integrated relationship with Highways England, as well as the other contractors and suppliers on the framework. Everything we do affects the performance of the team and the end result we deliver, so a collaborative approach with plenty of clear communication is key. It’s very much about thinking strategically and planning for long-term success across the framework and our other schemes.”