The extension of the M77 motorway with the Glasgow Southern Orbital (GSO) is one of the largest road construction projects undertaken in mainland Scotland in recent times.
The £132 million project is being undertaken as a Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO) concern and will improve an important part of the countries strategic road network, which is essential to boosting economic growth, particularly in Ayrshire and the south-west region of the country.
It will also provide direct links with other major roads serving the central belt, the south of Scotland and the ferry routes to Ireland. The 15.2km (9.4-mile) M77 extension (£79 million) runs south from Malletsheugh, near Newton Mearns, to Fenwick in East Ayrshire and will replace the present dangerous and sub-standard A77 trunk road (27 people killed and 105 injured during the past 10 years) with a dual two-lane motorway with a 70mph speed limit.
Upon completion of the new motorway the existing A77 between Malletsheugh and Fenwick will become a road solely for local traffic with suitable speed limits imposed and an upgrade of facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.
The GSO will provide a dual two-lane carriageway connecting the M77 / A77 at the new Maidenhill junction to the A726 at Philipshill, East Kilbride, thereby improving links between the Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Renfrewshire areas, and also bypassing beleaguered communities along the A726 and B764 corridors of their significant volumes of heavy through traffic.
At Philipshill the A726 will be upgraded to provide a new elevated section of dual two-lane carriageway with connecting slip roads to cater for traffic travelling between East Kilbride and Busby, Glasgow and Paisley. Clarkston and Eaglesham are both conservation village communities, who have endured heavy traffic for many years and will significantly benefit from the GSO. It is intended to convert the B764 Eaglesham Moor road into a local access road with cycling and pedestrian facilities. The roads were open for pedestrian access and inspection on 24th April 2005.
THE DBFO CONTRACT
East Renfrewshire Council (ERC), in conjunction with the Scottish Executive (SE) and South Lanarkshire Council (SLC), entered into a £132 million DBFO project agreement with Connect M77 / GSO plc in May 2003. East Renfrewshire Council, as the lead authority, is administering the contract. The Connect Group consists of Balfour Beatty plc and WS Atkins plc (Balfour Beatty Capital Projects Ltd and Atkins Investments). The contract is divided into two main parts:
- The design and construction of the M77 (Fenwick to Malletsheugh) Glasgow Southern Orbital route, including carriageway improvements to 1km of the A726 and the creation of an all purpose local road between Fenwick and Malletsheugh – the new roads were completed in Spring 2005
- The operation and maintenance of the new route for 32 years, including the existing sections of the A77 and A726, while the new route was under construction
Macquarie Bank advised the M77 / GSO road project on financial matters. The project was able to achieve financial close in just five months during 2003 following the appointment of the Connect consortium as the preferred bidder. The closure of the £132 million M77 / GSO DBFO road in Scotland was announced in May 2003. This followed the launch of a £132 million public bond issue by Connect, the Balfour Beatty / Atkins consortium in April 2003 as the finance initiative.
The new section of dual two-lane M77 motorway, the new dual two-lane carriageway GSO and changes to existing roads are being constructed for Connect M77 / GSO by Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited under a 24 month design and construct contract. Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited has employed a lead designer, Atkins Consultants Limited, to complete the outline design provided, under the project agreement, by the lead authority. Atkins Consultants Limited has sub-let parts of the design work to Scott Wilson Scotland Limited and Ironside Farrar Limited.
OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE WORKS
Connect Road Operators (CRO), also a Connect Group company, are managing the operation and maintenance of the new route and the sections of existing road network on behalf of Connect M77/GSO. CRO assumed these operation and maintenance responsibilities on 30th May 2003. CRO will have widespread responsibilities including the following:
- Responding to emergencies
- Emergency repairs, including potholes and safety fencing
- Routing of heavy and wide loads
- Traffic engineering and road safety issues, including the co-ordination, with the neighbouring authorities, of all traffic management on the new route and adjacent improved sections of the road network
- To inspect, maintain and oversee the repair of all assets, including the carriageways, sections of the adjacent road network, signs, bridges, street lighting and furniture
- Liaison with all interested parties, including the emergency services, councils and community councils
- Predicting the life of the carriageways and structures and planning their immediate and long-term needs
In addition they will be responsible for landscape management and grass cutting, management and liaison of winter maintenance gritting and snow ploughing operations in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities; sweeping, litter picking, sign
cleaning and gully emptying.
CONSTRUCTION DETAILS OF THE ROADS
The new section of the M77 motorway consists of 15.2km of new dual two-lane
7.3m carriageway with 3.3m hard shoulders and a central reserve, the verge will be 1.5m wide. The junctions are situated at Maidenhill, Kingswell and Fenwick. The GSO is 9.2km of new and 0.8km of improved dual two-lane all-purpose road. The road consists of 7.3m carriageways with 1m hard-strips and a central reserve. The verge width including hard strip is 3.5m. The junctions are at Maidenhill, Mearns Road, B767 Glasgow Road, Redwood Drive and the A726 at Philipshill.
The integration of the new roads into the lowland and upland landscapes was a fundamental element in the design of the route. To alleviate the impacts, the design has incorporated environmental and landscaping mitigation measures as well as several environmental benefits and enhancements these have included:
- Screen mounding and false cuttings to screen the roads and traffic at sensitive locations, and also help to cut down any noise impacts
- Rock cuttings have been designed to exploit the natural features and grain of the rock types in the areas around the road construction
- Steps have been taken to ensure that new trees and vegetation is established quickly on ledges and in crevices to blend the road into the environment
- Extensive planting of trees and shrubs, together with other seeding has also been undertaken to create substantial new woodland and grassland areas
Hedge planting, stonewalling and fencing has helped to integrate the new boundaries of the roads into the network of fields and other properties.