Foundations for missing link motorway

29 Jun 2009

by Damien Henderson, Evening Times

The first phase of the M74 motorway extension is nearing completion on schedule with engineers having laid most of the foundations for the five-mile stretch of road.

Just over a year since First Minister Alex Salmond cut the first ground on the £457m project, which is designed to complete Glasgow's "missing" stretch of ring road, the first visual signs of its impact on the south east of the city are beginning to emerge.

More than 80% of the piling work, which involves boring up to 40 metres into the ground to place steel-re-inforced columns in the bedrock beneath, is now complete and 13 of the 23 miles of stone columns which will hold up the road are in place.

Embankments of up to nine metres high, the biggest at the junction south of Kingston Bridge and Polmadie Road, have been built up, which requires thousands of tonnes of recycled rubble and earth to be shifted.

Although some disruption was caused earlier this year when piling work was thought to be responsible for dislodging some plaster work on the subway system, causing services to be cancelled, the section of work near West Street subway station was completed two weeks ago without causing any damage, project managers say.

They are now looking ahead to the next stage: lifting huge sections of pre-fabricated steel deck that will underlay the motorway on to the supports for the 14 bridges along the route.

On July 23, Britain's biggest crane, the functionally-named AK680, which is capable of carrying up to 1200 tonnes, will arrive in Glasgow, ready to start lifting the beams now sitting in industrial yards aside the route.

Stephen McFadden, the engineering representative for Glasgow City Council, said: "The new motorway will obviously bring about better, faster journeys but it is also having a huge effect on the regeneration of the area.

"We're already seeing the effect on businesses in the area who say it is much easier to get people to invest."

One of the most difficult aspects of the project is routing the motorway through the city, which will be the first time this has been done in Scotland since the M8 was built through the centre of Glasgow in the 1970s.

After joining the M8 south of Kingston Bridge, the new motorway will wind its way along an 800m viaduct through Port Eglington, taking in the Ayr and City Union railway lines before having to cross the West Coast Main Line, Europe's busiest stretch of railway, on its approach to Central Station.

The width of the track and the presence of overhead electrified lines will make it impossible to simply lift the 120m long, 4.5m-deep steel deck that will form the base of the bridge onto its supports.

Instead, the deck will be slowly pushed across from one side to the other, at a rate of 10m per hour.

After that, the route crosses Cathcart Road, an arterial route that takes a significant proportion of commuters in and out of the city from the south side.

The importance of the four-lane road has made it necessary to close each section separately while a bridge is constructed to support it.

The motorway will eventually be constructed underneath the new structure.

Other major pieces of work include constructing bridges at Rutherglen Station and over the Clyde at Auchenshuggle. Piling work for both is largely complete, but the steelwork is yet to be ordered from Corus and is expected to arrive by next summer.

Around 700 people are currently employed, either directly through Interlink JV - the joint venture established by Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire councils and government agency Transport Scotland - or via contractors and subcontractors.

Although the workforce will change gradually as the type of work evolves, the overall number of people employed is expected to remain fairly constant over the next two years. Mr McFadden admits that the consortium has not been as successful as had been hoped in its employability partnership, aiming to provide work for people who have been previously out of employment, using the project to give them experience and bring them back into the job market. The biggest reason for this is the economic downturn, which has left more skilled construction workers out of work, meaning that, so far, only 26 people have been recruited through the employability partnership.

"Ultimately, the project has meant that 700 people who might otherwise have been out of work have been employed.

"The employability partnership does represent real progress: so far it has been voluntary but we want to move towards making it a requirement of public contracts."

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald & Times Group.

M74-M8 link
  • M74 - M8 interchange