Balfour Beatty Awarded £129 million UK Smart Motorway M3 Upgrade Scheme
Balfour Beatty has won a £129 million scheme to upgrade a 13.4 mile stretch of the M3 through Hampshire and Surrey to a ‘smart motorway’.
The upgrade, for the UK Government’s Highways Agency, will increase capacity, reduce congestion and shorten journey times for the 120,000 motorists who pass through this part of the network every day.
The M3 between Junction 2 (interchange with the M25) and Junction 4a (Fleet) will be upgraded to a four-lane motorway by converting the hard shoulder to a permanent running lane. Electronic signs, operated by a regional control centre, will be installed to manage the flow of traffic in response to driving conditions.
Mobilisation work is due to start at the beginning of August, with main construction work due to begin this autumn with completion scheduled for spring 2017. Construction activity will include installing and refurbishing gantries, new static and variable signs, concrete safety barriers, drainage and surfacing works.
The contract is the latest in a series awarded to Balfour Beatty since the company was appointed to the Highways Agency's National Major Projects Framework in 2010. In June 2014, Balfour Beatty was awarded the £184 million M60 J8 to M62 J20 smart motorway scheme. In April 2014 the company’s construction joint venture with Skanska completed upgrading a 12 mile stretch of the M25 to a smart motorway, and in January 2014 Balfour Beatty completed upgrading parts of the M4 and M5 to a smart motorway in a £88 million scheme.
Balfour Beatty Executive Chairman Steve Marshall said: "The Highways Agency’s approach to using technology in this way reduces the costs of the road network, provides additional capacity and improves journey times. This award further strengthens our position as one of the UK’s leading contractors for smart motorways and reflects the strength of the relationship we have built with the Highways Agency over the last 20 years. ”
The M3 passes through Chobham Common, one of the largest areas of heathland in Surrey, and Balfour Beatty said it will use a sustainable design taking into account ecological considerations with natural habitats reinstated and enhanced.
217,000 extra workers needed to meet COVID-19 recovery
As the construction industry’s recovery progresses, the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecasts have led the organisation to believe the industry will reach 2019 levels of output in 2022.
The CSN says there will be an increase in the number of construction workers in “most English regions” by 2025, with demands forecasted at a 1.7% rise for the East Midlands, and a 1.4% rise for the West Midlands.
Scotland and Wales are also predicted to see a surge in demand for construction workers with a total increase of 1.4% and 0.7% respectively. The North East is the only region to see a slight decline in workforce demand at -0.1%.
Wood and interior fit-out trades among the most desirable during COVID-19
According to CSN’s forecast, the trades that are the most wanted are those of wood and interior fit-outs, with both requiring around 5,500 workers per year. Other in-demand trades include technical staff and other construction professionals, requiring 5,150 workers each year, construction managers at 3,600, and the electrical installation trade, which requires 3,400 staff per year.
There is also expected to be demand for 7,850 non-construction, office-based professionals and technical and IT support staff each year. Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, said: “It’s great to see construction coming back so strongly and creating lots of job opportunities.
“We need to adopt new approaches to meet these growing skills needs and deliver these quickly. We are working closely with the government and FE to build better bridges between FE and work and make apprenticeships more flexible. We are also making significant investments in supporting work experience that make it easier for employers to bring in new blood.
“We must also make sure that we invest in the skills that will drive change and meet new and growing needs such as Net Zero emissions and Building Safety. We will be announcing plans soon to tackle specific skills and occupations such as leadership and management, digital skills, and skills related to energy efficiency”, he said.