M1 extension to A1(M) (J43 to J48)

In 1973 the Department of Transport commissioned a study known as the South Yorkshire to North East Traffic and Economic Study (SYNETES) the brief being to forecast traffic on the main road network in the region and evaluate alternative proposals.


In 1973 the Department of Transport commissioned a study known as the South Yorkshire to North East Traffic and Economic Study (SYNETES) the brief being to forecast traffic on the main road network in the region and evaluate alternative proposals.

In 1975 the Department of Environment put forward proposals based on this study for a road to link the M1 motorway south of Leeds at Kirkhamgate with the A1 and A19 Trunk Roads at Dishforth and invited public views.

Two basic options were proposed; a western corridor passing between Leeds and Bradford and to the north east of Ripon, and an eastern corridor, passing to the east of Leeds then following the existing A1 north of Wetherby, both corridors joining at Dishforth. Each corridor having two variations.

The West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council responded to the Department's invitation by preparing a report in October 1975 which supported the Kirkhamgate - Dishforth route but reserved its position pending the results of the West Yorkshire Transportation Studies.

The Studies considered the implications to West Yorkshire of both corridors, and in a report prepared by the County's Directorate of Planning, Engineering and Transportation dated November 1977 on the Route to the North concluded that an "East of Leeds route is preferable".

On July19th 1977, whilst this report was in preparation, the Secretary of State announced his decision that his departments preferred route was the "Brown" variation of the east of Leeds corridor. This route required a shorter length of new road and made greater use of the existing A1.

The planning and design of the new route was initially undertaken by the West Riding Sub-Unit of the North Eastern Road Construction Unit. In 1981 the scheme was transferred to Pell Frischmann Consulting Engineers together with the Sub-Unit staff in the privatisation of the RCU's.

In May 1982 a Public Inquiry commenced on the Kirkhamgate - Dishforth Scheme and became the longest Inquiry ever held lasting some 12 months. The Inspector appointed was Air Marshall Sir Michael Giddings K.C.B., O.B.E., D.F.C.

The Ministers decision confirmed the schemes to upgrade the A1 between Bramham and Dishforth, but the link road between the M1 and A1 should not proceed because of concerns over its environmental impact.

As a result a further study into the traffic problems and impacts on the road network to the east of Leeds was commissioned in 1985. Following detailed investigations a recommendation for a new route for the M1-A1 Link Road was announced by the Secretary of State for Transport in November 1987.

The Department were under considerable pressure from the Treasury to "close down" existing consultancy agreements in view of the Government's policy that all consultancy contracts should be open to free competition. Such an opportunity was seen in the revision of the route.

In the event after hard negotiation the company retained the scheme but on the basis of re-negotiated fees which were considerably less than the Scale A & B commissions.

Further public consultation was conducted in November 1989 and the preferred scheme published and considered at Public Inquiry in January 1993. The decision to confirm the scheme and proceed towards construction was announced by the Minister for Roads and Traffic in November 1993. Pell Frischmann's scheme had finally got the go ahead. There was a big celebration in the office that day, but there were clouds gathering on the horizon.

The Private Finance initiative

The first consultation paper on private finance for roads was the Secretary of State for Transport's Green Paper " New Roads by New Means" presented to Parliament in May 1989 and proposed "new procedures for authorising privately financed roads".

"The government is looking for genuine private sector ventures with appropriate risks and rewards. There is no place for financial devices, disguised government borrowing or guarantees." It is of interest to note the Ministers view of shadow tolls and continues, "shadow tolls, for example, where the government makes payment to the private sector according to the number of vehicles using the road, are ruled out for this reason".

In November 1992, in parallel with the development of the M1-A1 Scheme, the Department of Transport announced that private sector companies might be invited to tender for Design, Build, Finance, and Operate (DBFO) road contracts. This was discussed in the Green Paper 'Paying for Better Motorways' published in May 1993.

The Highways Agency formally launched its use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to procure parts of the motorway and trunk road network in August 1994 with payment through 'shadow tolls'. The M1-A1 Link Road was selected as one of eight DBFO projects and was the largest and most complex of the national schemes to be procured by this method.

The decision was something of a blow to Pell Frischmann Consultants Ltd, who had built a major consultancy practice in Yorkshire, were operating world wide, and had by now developed the scheme almost to tender stage. The scheme was also one of the "seed corn" schemes transferred to the company from the RCU and it was certainly felt that the Ministry had gone back on "assurances" reached at that time. Although Pell Frischmann had achieved success within the new BDFO initiative, having been part of the consortium to win the A69 concession, the first awarded in the country, the decision had to be faced, whether to remain the Department's Agent or join with contractors bidding for the concession. Pell Frischmann had a wealth of invested knowledge in the scheme which would have been lost to the Department had they joined with contractors, time would have been lost in the appointment of a new Agent. In the event Pell Frischmann were awarded the Agent's role, which was to become more involved than at first envisaged, to ensure that the contractor operated in accordance with his Quality Plan.

Following the pre-qualification stage, which began in August 1994, four bidders were selected for the next stage in the demanding tendering and negotiation process to selection of "Preferred Bidder".

The £218M contract was originally awarded to a joint venture of Trafalgar House and Wimpey, but before construction started, Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction) took over all Wimpey's civil engineering interests nationwide. It refused to sign up for the Yorkshire Link joint venture claiming conditions were too onerous. Instead Balfour Beatty was given just 48 hours to take Tarmac's (now Carrilion Construction) place, and it accepted.

It seemed a good bid, with radical ideas for bridges and the tunnels' recalls Nigel Russell, one of the Balfour Beatty team hurriedly brought in to assess the tender, and the man now running the project for the joint venture."

Yorkshire Link Ltd, a consortium of Kvaerner and BICC, now selected as "preferred Bidder" intensive negotiations ensued with the Highways Agency until contract award.

The financing of the £200 million project was a significant aspect of the tendering and negotiation process. Yorkshire Link Ltd decided to finance the project by means of a combination of equity provided by the two consortium shareholders and by loans from some 32 banks.

In March 1996, the Minister for Railways and Roads awarded Yorkshire Link Ltd. a 30 year concession to deliver, operate and maintain the M1-A1 Link Road, and to receive payments based on tariffs for road usage, from the Highways Agency. In the year 2026, the project will be handed back to the Secretary of State, subject to meeting residual life conditions contained within the agreement.

The Construction

For construction Yorkshire Link formed a Joint Venture of Kvaerner Construction and Balfour Beatty, with the Babtie Group acting as their constructing engineers. In addition to the Link Road, 20 miles of side roads and diversions had to be constructed which were to be handed back to Leeds City and North Yorkshire County Councils on completion.

The account of the project is contained in the brochure "M1-A1 Lofthouse to Bramham Link Road". In its introduction Lawrie Haynes the Highways Agency's Chief Executive states; "It has proved the flagship scheme for the successful promotion of this form of highway procurement. The Highway Agency is now renowned as a world leader in using DBFO contracts for provision of new infrastructure."

Jim Cohen, Chairman and Peter Dyer, Managing Director of Yorkshire Link in the preface add "The opening of the M1-A1 Yorkshire Link represents a significant achievement. As the country's largest and most complex DBFO road contract to date, it provides a superb example of the advantages which partnership between the public and private sectors can bring to the provision of national infrastructure.

The completion of the project ahead of programme and to cost is a fine demonstration of technical competence on the part of all those involved: the Highways Agency as the project's sponsor; its Agent, Pell Frischmann; the financiers; the construction joint venture and its designers; and the Yorkshire Link team and our respective advisors."

Management of the construction of the project required particular skills by the key participants due to scale, complexity, and the large number of organisations and people involved in its delivery. A Project Forum was established, which comprised senior management representatives from the main participating organisations, to oversee the design and construction programme of work.

The forum included Tony Ball for Yorkshire Link, Nigel Russell, Project Director for Balfour Beatty on behalf of the Highways Agency, Richard Fuller and Barry Drewitt of Pell Frischmann, the Agency's Project Director and Site Representative respectively, and Gary Smith a Director of the Babtie Group.

The project Forum was supported by several Technical Forums dealing with specialised areas of the project.

Kvaerner's Construction Director was David Blackburn, who with Nigel Russell worked 'seamlessly together' to provide the efficient and effective management of the construction joint venture.

One of the biggest challenges was that of the Babtie Group to produce a design in advance of the construction phase a task made more difficult because of the demanding time scale.

The engineers in seeking innovative and cost effective solutions to the design of the project had to take account of the contrasting requirements of lowest capital cost for construction and of whole life costing for maintenance, and produce a total value engineered solution. The main areas of design where this was achieved was Earthworks, Drainage, Pavement and Structures.

The scale of the work involved over 36 months in the construction of the 30km M1-A1 Link Road is impressive: approximately 5 million cubic metres of excavation, building over 150 structures, widening / re-aligning 12km of existing carriageway on the M62, M1 and A1 and the A64, constructing 18km of new, continuously reinforced concrete road and providing 2 motorway interchanges and 5 junctions.

The works divided three distinct sections:

  • the M1-M62 widening,
  • a new motorway built on a greenfield site between Stourton and Hook Moor and,
  • the parallel reconstruction of A1 between Hook Moor and Bramham.

The road design incorporated a balance between cut and fill resulting in the excavated material largely being re-used within the project. John Jones was a major sub-contractor for Earthworks.

Material varied from sandstone and mudstone together with coal seams at the southern end, to Magnesium Limestone, some of which was highly weathered in the north. 5 million m³ of material was excavated including about 781,000 m³ of site processing, used for capping, sub-base, backfill and cement bound material.

Several landscaped balancing ponds have been provided for drainage from the motorway to surrounding watercourses and provide habitat for wild life.

Buried petrol and oil interceptors provided upstream of outfalls contain oil residues on the surface water and potential spillage resulting from accidents.

The carriageway pavements have been designed for a 40 year life and should only require resurfacing to maintain skid resistance.

Some 15km of the existing M1, M62 and A1 have fully flexible pavement construction with a continuously reinforced concrete pavement used for the central 15km between Stourton and Hook Moor, where subsidence may be expected over backfilled open cast mining areas.

Some 550,000 tonnes of blacktop supplied by Redland were laid for the surfacings. A high modulus dense bitumen base was used as a departure from the standard and selected by the joint venture for its superior load spreading and deformation resistance characteristics.

A stone mastic asphalt wearing course was adopted, with gap graded material and high stone content for noise reduction and longer life.

The structures included one viaduct, two tunnels, thirty seven bridges, eight underpasses, two footbridges, three culverts, the remainder being signal gantries and CCTV masts.

The structures have been designed for low maintenance, throughout their 120 year design life and balance aesthetic appeal with economy. 15 integral bridges have been provided.

In a typical four span over-bridge, the central concrete pier is fixed top and bottom, with each side pier able to rotate through a 'pin' joint in its foundation pad. A 700mm deep slot cut into the pad and into which the pier sits quite tightly has just sufficient side clearance to allow it to rotate a few degrees as the deck expands or contracts. Deck movements usually transfer to 'sliding' abutments, which in embankments sit on steel H piles at depths up to 12m. The upper 5m of each pile is able to flex in the fill before reaching firm rock. Russell calls this design, appropriately; "the one with wibbly wobbly piles".

Shallow pad type abutments have been used where piles are not required. The deck beams sit integral with the abutment pad which slides over a thin foundation slab, with a 'polished' finish which provides for low friction sliding. Reinforced earth techniques allow the fill inside to move with its wing walls, with decks connected to the supports, and having no movement joints, the movements of the bridge being absorbed by flexure of the abutment supports and the stiffness of the soil behind.

Two cut and cover tunnels were constructed to take the M1 southbound to the M62 westbound free flow link under the M1 and M62 motorways. Traffic management was a major challenge to ensure that the motorway traffic could be maintained throughout their construction. The innovative design of the £3 million tunnels allowed them to be simultaneously constructed whilst 12 lanes of traffic were kept moving on both motorways. Both tunnels cross the motorways at a skew, with the longer of the two, under the M62, measuring 147 metres. Due to their length a very comprehensive lighting system has been provided within each tunnel."

St George's Bridge, forms the gateway to Leeds and is a 2-span steel/concrete composite bridge curved both in plan and elevation. The 140 metre long bridge costing £3.5 million carries the new M1 northbound carriageway around the south-east of Leeds over the re-numbered M621 motorway.

Other intersection and motorway bridges, including integral bridges, are generally composite prestressed concrete beams and reinforced concrete decks with reinforced concrete abutments and reinforced earth wingwalls."

Two of the bridges carry the motorway over busy railway lines which necessitated much of the construction work being carried out during night and weekend possessions.

The pre cast concrete beams, manufactured in Eire by Banagher Concrete Ltd, were brought to site by road transport, after crossing the Irish Sea by Ferry to Liverpool."

The largest structure on the scheme is the £9 million Aire Valley Viaduct, at 250 metres long, which carries 10 lanes of motorway including slip-roads over the River Aire and the Aire and Calder Navigation Canal. The viaduct is a five span steel beam structure with a composite concrete deck - the longest span being 73 metres. The structural steelwork for this and nine other bridges was fabricated by Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge in Darlington and transported to site by road.

The Aire Valley Viaduct contains approximately 4000 tonnes of structural steelwork, and with beams weighing up to 150 tonnes some of the largest mobile cranes in the country were used to lift them into place across the waterways, the largest crane was capable of lifting up to 1200 tonnes."

A coating of highly durable glass flake epoxy was painted on all steel structures. Russell stresses, "Our aim is for quality structures up front so we can eliminate or considerably reduce long term maintenance throughout the job." However the construction of the Aire Valley Viaduct was not without its problems which could have been disastrous.

The main girders, having arrived on site, were found by a Babtie engineer not to be in accordance with the consultant's design which provided for flanges up to 100mm. thick constructed from large rolled plate.

That design had gone to Kvaerner Cleveland but someone had decided that this could be done more economically using two plates of 40 and 60 mm. Welded at the seams. Although discussed informally between Cleveland and Babtie it had never been put as a construction proposal.

When attempts were made by the contractor to submit this as a 'departure from the standard' to the Highways Agency alarm bells rang and the full ramifications of the change came out and of its potential weakness. That caused great difficulties both technically and in delay.

The solution proposed was to bolt the two plates together by means of high strength friction grip bolts.

It was found because of the incomplete mating of the plate surfaces together with air gouging of welds that the plates had to be removed as part of the strengthening process.

The work was undertaken on the ground, on site, and some 15,000 bolts were used. To ensure security of the mating faces epoxy resin grouting was necessary.

Although there was also concern about St Georges Bridge, which also had doubler plates to the flanges but as designed, extensive ultrasonic testing was undertaken to prove the adequacy of the contact between the plates and no remedial works were found to be required.

There were also the problems of constructing the road through the coal measures and a C.R.C.P. carriageway (referred to elsewhere) was adopted.

On one section when the drainage had not been completed before the concrete carriageway had been constructed, water found its way into the fill and caused collapse and dipping of the carriageway. The drainage was completed but this section of pavement had to be reconstructed.

This was not the only problem with water. Water contaminated with chlorides got into the supply to the concrete mixing plant and a bridge pier had to be demolished when this problem was discovered by the contractor's laboratory engineer during routine testing.

Under this new arrangement of procurement a lot of things were discovered as potential non-conformities and the client's Agent had to progressively increase staff numbers to undertake fully its role.

That is not to say that construction under the older established forms of contract weren't without problems.

The debate will continue as to whether the 'PFI' route or the traditional ways in which most of the network of motorways was built with government funding, and defined roles for client, engineer and contractor, provides the best technical and economic motorway in the long term.

Whichever way is adopted the public can still influence construction even when built, no more so than on the M1 / A1 Link.

The section of carriageway between Garforth and Parlington had been constructed with rough textured C.R.C.P. and, because of local objection on noise grounds from traffic a thick black top paving had to be overlaid.

This short account of some of the problems encountered during the construction of this fine section of the motorway is intended to provide a balance with the official account.

The scheme has important safety measures for the travelling public.

Extensive signing and signalling has been provided at the numerous junctions and interchanges, in order to provide information to motorists and the monitor and control traffic.

In addition to fixed directional signs there are electronically controlled variable message and enhanced message signs. Electronic matrix signals provide the means of controlling traffic speeds in the event of emergencies.

PTZ (pan, tilt and zoom) cameras mounted on masts permit monitoring of traffic. The West Yorkshire Police at Wakefield operate these controls, which are also monitored by Yorkshire Link from their Bramham maintenance compound.

Given the scale of the scheme, much emphasis has been placed on the need to safeguard local ecology, and an environmental impact study was carried out. Hook Moor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is one of the top two sites for thistle broomrape in Britain.

Along the route of the motorway there are several areas of archaeological interest. A particularly rare and exciting find was the discovery of a Bronze Age cremation cemetery north of Garforth, while evidence of Bronze Age huts were found at Swillington Common.

"Excavations on Grim's Ditch and the Aberford Dykes may have solved one of the enduring mysteries of Yorkshire archaeology. Pottery finds and radiocarbon dating have suggested that they were built in the late Iron Age, scotching earlier theories which suggested that they were part of the Dark ages defences of the Celtic Kingdom of Elmet against the encroaching Anglo-Saxons."

There were several investigations of Roman field systems, providing an insight into the landscape in Roman times. "One group of enclosures at Parlington Junction included a small cemetery with six Roman burials, and also yielded the largest assemblage of Roman pottery from any rural site in West Yorkshire. The discovery of two sunken-floored huts here sounds unimpressive, but these were the first Dark Age buildings discovered in West Yorkshire, and showed that the site has been re-occupied by Anglo-Saxon invaders after the end of Roman rule."

During excavation across the A656 the original embankment and surface of the Roman road from Castleford to Tadcaster was found to have survived intact under the modern road. "There was even a marker-bank, laid out by Roman surveyors before the road was built."

Surveys and excavations were undertaken by the west Yorkshire Archaeological Services (WYAS) on 35 sites along the route, 22 of the sites yielded archaeological remains.

A comprehensive landscape scheme has been prepared along the 30km route with the planting of 550,000 trees and shrubs and wild flower areas and will integrate the road with surrounding landscapes.

The M1-A1 Link was opened on the 12th February 1999 Rt. Hon John Prescott MP attended by local Civic dignitaries and representatives of all those organisations involved in the project.

Of the opening of the new link road, Prescott records it as "a significant step in the completion of the nations strategic motorway network. The scheme will bring enormous travel, regeneration and environmental benefits to Yorkshire, the effects of which will be felt over a wide area."