Latest News: Long Reach Sheet Piling Rigs Could Improve Smart Motorway Safety

June 1st, 2020

Long Reach Sheet Piling Rigs Could Improve Smart Motorway Safety

A safety review of the 200-mile smart motorway network could see our team here at Sheet Piling (UK) Limited, not to mention our unique sheet piling equipment, come to the rescue of contractors worried by the Government Safety Review in March.

We have already proved how our unique sheet piling rig can deliver significant cost savings to smart motorway projects UK-wide, which rely on having in-built safety zones in the form of Emergency Rescue Areas (ERAs). Now there is a call for additional ERAs, we feel our sheet piling methods, and ways of installing sheet pile walls, have a big part to play in furthering smart motorway safety.

Long Reach Sheet Piling Rigs and Smart Motorway Cost Savings

Our TM 12/15 LR sheet piling rig was bought at some cost to Sheet Piling UK – £1.2m to be precise – and built to our own specification and on the basis of our sheet piling expertise, which extends over three decades. The rig has already been used for smart motorway infrastructure work on the M23, M1, M25, M27 and M62, installing sheet pile walls within the Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs) that have been sited 2.5 miles apart.

Using the rig has saved contractors around £40,000-£60,000 on average, per ERA with a typical 100-metre sheet pile installation. Using this rig for all ERA construction would save the highways sector millions, at a time it is worrying about the additional costs associated with making smart motorways safer.

The ERA Situation

The Government Safety Review has set down a requirement for ERAs, also known as SOS lay-bys, to be situated no further than one mile apart, and ideally just 0.75 miles apart where feasible. Additionally, it wants to address particular safety needs on the M25, by having a further 10 extra refuge areas retrofitted.

Years of lobbying by the AA have led to this point, but the real catalyst was a BBC Panorama programme which pointed to 38 deaths on parts of the 200-mile smart motorway network in the past five years and, in particular, a 20-fold increase in near misses on a single stretch of the M25.

Safety, ERAs and Sheet Piling

The AA believes that smart motorways can be safe traffic management systems, pointing to the successful M42 pilot scheme conducted in 2006. However, for that pilot, the emergency stopping areas were located every 600 metres. It was only when work began on smart motorway projects, that the distance between stops rose to what is now typically 2.5 miles.

With the new requirement to increase the number of ERAs, our unique rigs could play a major role in upgrading safety on smart motorways – of which another 300 miles are in the planning. We already have a sister long reach rig (TM20) due to arrive later in the year, ensuring we are poised and able to install sheet pile walls at any new ERAs that need to be created.

These rigs deliver such phenomenal savings because they can reach so much further than any other rig when installing sheet piles Their reach is 8.1 metres – three metres more than any other sheet piling rig – and this has real benefits. The rigs require no special platform to be built out from the existing motorway infrastructure, being able to install pile from the existing motorway structure. This slashes both the costs and time involved with an ERA sheet pile wall installation.

Other Benefits of the Long Reach Sheet Pile Rigs

We also see other benefits of using our unique sheet piling rigs, whenever they are deployed. There is less disturbance to wildlife habitats and the landscape, because we minimise the amount of infrastructure required for the sheet piling equipment’s use.

Then there is the advantage for motorists, who are less impacted upon up by the works traffic that has to enter and exit the ERA construction zone.

Next Steps

We sincerely hope that Highways England and leading motorway construction firms will build the use of our long reach rigs into their specifications, noting the huge savings it can bring to infrastructure widening projects. We also hope that the Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, who has so competently managed the smart motorway review process, will also hear of the rigs advantages for the sheet piling works that an ERA installation requires.

There is a 10-mile stretch of smart motorway in South Yorkshire that is currently being reviewed for safety and we hope that nobody is scared away from retrofitting new refuge areas on the basis of cost and without having considered the cost savings Sheet Piling (UK) Ltd could deliver.

The Department of Transport has already said that it will “consider a national programme of retrofitting additional emergency areas on existing smart motorways where places to stop in an emergency are more than one mile apart, drawing on evidence from the programme to deliver additional emergency areas on the M25.”

We hope that such reviews consider our fleet of long reach sheet piling rigs as the cost-saving workhorse behind sheet pile wall installation and that motorists and their families and friends become the beneficiaries of much-enhanced safety on the smart motorway network, as a result.

For more information on our sheet pile wall installations on smart motorways, please call 01772 794141.

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Sheet Piling (UK) Limited is one of the UK's leading piling contractors. Owning and operating a comprehensive range of specialist piling equipment Sheet Piling (UK) Ltd also carry extensive stocks of new and used piles enabling rapid reaction to any urgent requirements or emergency situations.