A bit of a duel dualling the A11 but in all a success story

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Posted by APM on 18th Sep 2012

Rob Gibson from the Highways Agency delivered and interesting and topical talk in Norwich on the challenges of dualling the A11. Whilst many project managers are concerned with quality and cost, few have to battle through the ecological and archaeological issues that Rob has had to deal with or contend with the land owners from the MOD, crown Estate and Forestry Commission all in one go!

The dualling of the A11 will result in a 15 kilometre section of dual carriageway linking the Five Ways roundabout to Thetford Forest and will significantly improve road links in the East of England, providing the final link between the A11 and Norwich. First mooted in the 1950s, this project has been a long time coming and listening to Rob describing the issues faced, it was clear to see why! A number of protected species had to be re-homed, new heathlands created there was the not insignificant issue of a public consultation in the 1990s and a public enquiry in 2009 to contend with.

With plans in place to deal with ecology and conservation, the landowners placated and an agreement to use as much local material as possible, especially that supplied by a major local land owner, all look set to go until the CSR Road Programme was introduced and the project ordered to reduce its costs by a massive 20%. Rob explained how a large number of small savings were introduced skilfully into the project in order to achieve the savings, something that many projects shy away from as its so much easier to make fewer, larger savings Robs approach certainly gave the audience food for thought and this was reflected in the Q&A session that followed his talk.

As for lessons learned, these were insightful and Rob explained how the many and varied stakeholders were taken along the journey, how accepted standards were challenged and a culture of not accepting the norm was established. Some of the methods for cost reduction were innovative and, whilst there was no doubt safety needs were well regarded, the challenges were well thought out and well presented.

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