Checking progress on the A14 improvement scheme

27 February 2019

By Harry Garnham, Head of Performance, Highways.

Harry Garnham, Head of Performance, HighwaysThe Government has committed to investing £15 billion on the motorways and major A roads in England between 2015-16 and 2019-20 and £25 billion between 2020-21 and 2024-25. It is Highways England’s job to deliver this investment and the Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) job to monitor their performance.

By far the biggest project currently in construction is the £1.5 billion upgrade of the A14 from Cambridge to Huntingdon. The 21-mile stretch of dual carriageway between Cambridge and Huntingdon has been a congestion blackspot for many years. Around 85,000 vehicles use it every day – and about a quarter of these are heavy goods vehicles, carrying freight from East Coast ports such as Felixstowe to East Anglia, the Midlands and beyond. I visited the scheme with colleagues earlier this month to get an update on progress.

The team at the A14 includes Highways England and several different contractors. But the organisations work as one team with a single sense of purpose. I couldn’t actually tell who worked for which organisation! That culture is difficult to create and maintain, and it is a tribute to the A14 leadership team and all the staff that work on the project.

On site, we inspected the 750-metre viaduct crossing of the River Great Ouse, built using some efficient and innovative methods. For instance, the bridge deck has been laid using pre-fabricated concrete slabs, cast on-site. And modular parapets have been used on bridges across the project. These are good, efficient practices which Highways England intends to roll out more widely across its operations and we will be looking to see that they are built into its future plans for the strategic road network.

The scale of the scheme brings the project into contact with other transport networks – the local road network, but also the rail network. The new road goes over the East Coast Mainline, so working closely with Network Rail colleagues has been essential.

The focus on the customer is clear. The project team has done a lot of engagement work with the local community. The scheme improves local transport routes in the area, keeping communities connected and supporting housing and business development in the area. Again, there are lessons to learn for other schemes.

The project is very safety focussed. That was apparent from entering the site and throughout the tour. They are currently operating at over 4.5 million man hours without a serious incident, with one incident during the whole construction. It is an impressive record – and an area which will need continued focus as construction goes on.

We will be following this complex scheme closely over the coming months, and look forward to seeing it deliver benefits to the local area and to the country, when it opens to traffic in 2020-21.