£1.3bn Trans-Pennine project is ‘biggest challenge to date’ – RSK


RSK Group has landed a critical role on a £1.3 billion infrastructure programme it has dubbed its “biggest challenge to date”. 

Credit: National Highways.

National Highways has appointed Structural Soils Ltd to its A66 Northern Trans-Pennine project, where it will act as principal contractor on what is thought to be the ‘largest ground investigation project in the UK to date’. 

Ground investigation contractor Structural Soils was founded in 1964. It became part of RSK Group in 2007 and has offices in Bristol, Castleford, Coventry, Glasgow, Hemel Hempstead, Plymouth and Wigan. 

The A66 project has seen several sections upgraded or bypassed since the 1970s. 

It involves dualling single carriageway sections and key junction improvements between M6 Junction 40 (Penrith) and the A1 at Scotch Corner, which spans more than 50 miles across sometimes mountainous terrain.  

RSK has brought in 14 additional Group companies for the works across eight schemes, which are programmed to last 22 weeks. 

Balfour Beatty, Costain, Keltbray and Kier were also appointed to the major project, dubbed “one of the most critical road upgrades in the north”, in October last year.   

RSK Group companies supporting the project: 

  • RSK SafeGround (service clearance) 
  • Centara (service clearance) 
  • RSK Consents Solutions (facilitating access to the exploratory holes) 
  • Acies Group (temporary works design) 
  • EDP (health and safety support) 
  • Streetwise UK Management (traffic management) 
  • Headland Archaeology (archaeology) 
  • ADAS (ecology) 
  • CAN (plant and equipment) 
  • Envirolab (chemical testing) 
  • JB Site Investigations (drilling) 
  • PB Drilling (drilling) 
  • Dynamic Sampling UK (drilling) 
  • Drilling Supplies UK (drilling consumables) 

Scope of works 

“I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the A66 site recently and I was able to gain an appreciation of the magnitude of the job we are doing, which is really quite something, even by the standards we have previously set ourselves,” said Structural Soils managing director, Stephen Mackereth.  

Credit: National Highways.

“We are principal contractor for a project that entails something in the order of 1,300 exploratory holes, many now requiring the services of both cable percussion and rotary rigs to complete them. We have 17 drilling crews and four trial pitting crews on site and some 4km of drilling is required.

“We have put more than 200 people through the National Highways online induction process to enable them to work on the site and the site team is supported by a back-room staff of administrators, reporting engineers and lab technicians.”  

Mackereth added: “It is safe to say this is our biggest challenge to date by quite some way and we are working hand in hand with 14 RSK businesses to deliver this.” 

In 2020, the project was designated a ‘Project Speed pathfinder’, which meant the construction time for the project would be halved and the opening of the road brought forward by five years, to 2029. 

The Planning Inspectorate recently waved through 22 design change proposals to the project put forward by National Highways. Some key changes are below:  

  • Works to Center Parcs junction  
  • Changes within Ministry of Defence land  
  • Revised plan for Cafe Sixty-Six land  
  • Realignment: Main Street, Sleastonhow Lane, Crackenthorpe Underpass, Warrener Lane  
  • Removal of Sewage Works junction; new access from B6262  
  • Removal of Langrigg westbound junction; Langrigg Lane link revision  
  • Reorientation of Kemplay Bank junction  
  • Construction of noise barrier south of Brough  
  • Earlier tie-in of Cross Street  
  • Change in westbound speed limit   

Following a decision by the secretary of state in November, works will start in 2024.       

To read the full schedule of changes, click here. 

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