Experience from Kent Elms issues will help ensure future project success

Published Wednesday, 4th July 2018

Artist impression of Kent Elms New Footbridge

Lessons learned from the delayed Kent Elms project will inform how the council tackles the upcoming Bell junction upgrade project.

The message comes from the council’s cabinet member for Highways, Cllr Andrew Moring, as highways work at the Kent Elms junction on the A127 nears completion. The project is critical in ensuring that our road network manages increases in traffic volumes along the A127 as our town, and specifically the airport and neighbouring Airport Business Park development, continue to grow and prosper. The project follows on from the successful completion of major upgrades to Progress Road, Tesco roundabout and Cuckoo Corner.

Although around 90% of the project is now complete, works have been dogged by issues, with utility companies taking longer to complete work than estimated and inaccurate drawings for example leading to major delays and difficulties coordinating the work programme.

Adverse weather early this year also saw work grind to a halt, and so highways works to create the extra lane on the London-bound carriageway will continue until next month (August 2018).

Every effort is being made to minimise disruption to motorists and neighbouring residents and businesses by avoiding working at peak times. Minor work to replace traffic light cabling will take place over one weekend in September.

Whilst the road layout will be completed by August, installation of the footbridge is set to take place in January 2019. This is due to the uncovering of a large water main during the initial foundation work that was at a different location to what utility company drawings and penetrating radar showed. This main, critical for local water supplies, now requires diversion before the footbridge can be installed and we are working positively with Essex and Suffolk Water to enable this to happen. The new footbridge will be assembled offsite and constructed in modules, minimising the number and duration of any road closures needed.

Residents neighbouring the junction are receiving update letters.

Cllr Andrew Moring, cabinet member for infrastructure, said that the lessons have been learned from Kent Elms and these would be applied to future projects: “Though our previous junction upgrades at Progress Road, Cuckoo Corner and Tesco roundabout have all completed on time, there is no doubt that Kent Elms has proven the biggest challenge for all involved, not least because of the huge number of utility pipes and cables under the road that have needed to be moved.

“Ninety per cent of the project has been completed, and the additional London bound lane will be completed next month, which means that the majority of the disruption that commuters and residents have faced will be over and the new road layout and additional capacity at this junction will be in place. However, further utility works do need to take place before the bridge can be installed and we are focused on ensuring that this happens as swiftly as possible and we are therefore working positively with the utility companies.

“As someone who uses this junction every day, I personally understand just how frustrating this is for residents, businesses and visitors alike. The council shares this frustration and we are disappointed that we have not been able to deliver the Kent Elms project on time.

“Whilst many of these issues are not of our making, we do apologise to all those affected by these overruns and it is vital to emphasise that we are learning from this experience and are already applying those lessons as we plan improvements to The Bell junction. We are already having very early conversations with contractors and utilities companies to ensure that we can deliver future highways projects on time as we have done before now.”