VolkerFitzpatrick complete A31 Ringwood Widening and Bridge Replacement

VolkerFitzpatrick has completed works on the A31 Ringwood Widening and Bridge Replacement Scheme for National Highways, two weeks ahead of schedule. The extensive road widening project, near the New Forest in Hampshire, is a part of National Highways £8.7 billion Regional Delivery Partnership. Works on site started in March to widen the westbound A31 from two lanes to three between the Ringwood and Verwood junctions and included the removal and reconstruction of two bridges over the River Avon and Bickerley Mill Stream.

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Replacing the bridges was a complex task, carried out over a number of phases. VolkerFitzpatrick removed the bridges, originally built in the 1930's, in sections using a 750-tonne crane, one of only seven in the country which stood at an impressive 60 metres tall. The bridges were then dismantled and cut into pieces before being removed from site. The foundations for the new bridge supports were laid and beams for the new decks, measuring 45 metres in length were installed. To minimise disruption, Enhanced Mobile Carriageway Closures, an innovative method of slowing traffic to allow each beam to be slewed across the carriageway, was used with great success.

Once the new beams were in place, construction of the new decks commenced, with phased concrete pours to allow the new beams to settle under the load into their final position. Surfacing and joints preceded removal of the pontoons, meeting completion of the bridge works before the environmental-constraint window closed at the end of October.  By combining the widening and bridge replacement schemes on the A31, we reduced the overall disruption that would have been caused by having two separate projects.

Migration season

Due to the works' close proximity to the river, the team worked with The Environment Agency and Natural England, to minimise the ecological impact of the project on the local habitat. The planning phase incorporated mitigation measures to protect bats living in the area and the presence of spawning Atlantic salmon meant the works were carefully scheduled around their migration season, between May and October. Pontoons on the rivers throughout demolition also ensured no debris entered the watercourse.

Deon Scholtz, highways director for VolkerFitzpatrick, said: "We're pleased to have completed the widening and bridge replacement project, whilst helping deliver the National Highways Regional Delivery Partnership. Although a challenging project, our teams have vast knowledge and experience of highways and bridge installations, meaning we have been able to plan works meticulously to minimise disruption, and in the long term, benefit those living and working in the south east of England."

Community engagement

Extensive and continuous communications with affected audiences turned early criticism and doubt into positive support. The scheme scored amaximum 45/45 for the Considerate Constructors Scheme and achieved a Distinction International Safety Award with the British Safety Council.

The business engaged with nearby primary schools and the local community which included working with supply chain contractors from the surrounding area, providing employment opportunities over the course of the project as well as placing apprentices and trainees on site. The team were also asked to complete a 90-second daily test to monitor mental fatigue. Those registering outside of their typical responses were notified and supported.

Daniel Kittredge, Highways England project manager for the A31 Ringwood, said: "I am pleased to confirm the work to widen the A31 at Ringwood has been completed ahead of time and road users are now able to use the road with its new third lane. The A31 is one of the region's most important roads, connecting Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, and is a vital route every day for work journeys and home deliveries, visits to friends and family and the movement of goods and services. 

"The improved route will be more reliable, reducing journey times and providing capacity for future traffic growth and we would like to thank the people of Ringwood and the surrounding area for their patience while we completed this important scheme."

We've condensed this fantastic project from 10 months into three minutes in the timelapse video below: