Case study: Traffix in Commonwealth Games Sprint

Posted on Wednesday, August 18th 2021

Project breakdown
Client: Morgan Sindall Group PLC
Contractor: Fitzgerald Contractors Limited
Stakeholders: Transport for West Midlands, The Department for Transport
Location: A45 Birmingham
Depot: Traffix Bickenhill
Division: Major Projects

Project background
Sprint, Birmingham's first uninterrupted cross-city bus priority route, will be built in stages, with phase 1 set to be ready in time for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. It will link key venues at the NEC, Birmingham city centre and the Alexander Stadium.

Passengers using services that operate along the Sprint corridor will benefit from the delivery of new and extended bus lanes, with vehicles receiving priority at traffic lights. This will help to improve the speed of services travelling between stops and could cut journey times by 20% at peak periods.

Construction of Phase 1, the A45 section of the Sprint corridor, was awarded to Morgan Sindall Infrastructure. The civil works are being carried out by Fitzgerald Contractors on behalf of Morgan Sindall.

Traffix has an excellent track record with both Morgan Sindall and Fitzgerald Contractors having partnered both companies on many small to medium sized projects. On the back of this relationship Traffix were invited to tender for the traffic management on phase 1 and were subsequently awarded the project.

The challenge
The biggest challenge facing the construction teams is the lack of time before the project is due to go live in May 2022. COVID restrictions have delayed the project by over 12 months with work finally commencing in March 2021.

Phase 1 of the new Sprint corridor runs through a densely populated area of Birmingham; a big consideration is the engagement with the local community to ensure that they can go about their daily lives with minimal inconvenience. Additionally, traffic in and out of the city would require clear guidance on new road layouts and journey time expectations.

The expanded sections of the new corridor are 3-metre-wide lanes inbound and outbound of Birmingham, at any given time there can be up to 80 workers on site carrying out widening work or repositioning existing utilities. Keeping this many workers safe at all times is paramount.

The solution
The first stage of the traffic management project was the temporary placement of Traffix Project manager Chris Evans into the Morgan Sindall site office for the duration of the project. From here Chris co-ordinates the traffic management with Morgan Sindall’s site management and Traffix’s Major Projects team in Solihull to ensure that plans are adhered to, signs are installed on time and crews are scheduled for the 24/7 maintenance cover. The benefit of Chris being onsite allows for decisions to be made quickly when reacting to unforeseen site developments.

Protecting an 80-strong workforce was the first priority. The “Big idea” was a mass barrier system designed for maximum safety. This barrier, the single largest barrier that Traffix has ever designed and installed, is rated for 51mph strikes and will move just 400mm if impacted at 51mph. The barrier is situated across the centre line which reduces the potential for accidents as the workforce have no need to venture out of their zone to move cones.

The main sections of the barrier run on the A45 between Heybarnes Circus and Bordesley Circus, which is approximately 2 miles. Installation began in February and was completed by April, each section requiring a crew of 6 Traffix operatives and an 8-strong crew from Traffix’s barrier partner. A reduction in the speed limit from 40mph to 30mph was introduced and a lane drop installation system was created. Using a lane drop system means that instead of installation crews battling with 3 lanes of traffic coming into a taper, the road is closed whilst crews turn lane 1 into a designated left only turn and lanes 2 and 3 for traffic going straight ahead.

When the workforce are ready to move onto phase 2 of the project, valuable time will be saved by the simple flick of a taper at the base of the barrier. This swaps the ends around whilst the rest of the barrier remains in position, permitting lane 1 to run and enabling the workforce to work in the central reservation.

A crew of 2 traffic operatives maintain the installation day and night. However, maintaining nearly 2 miles of barrier requires a lot of cleaning. Because of its height and ridge, the barrier cannot be cleaned conventionally using a road sweeper. This project is very much a “One Team” effort so Traffix and Morgan Sindall collaborated with local road sweeping company Damien Sweeps to develop a customised L shaped arm which fits to a road sweeper and sprays a jet of water via 5 jets designed to follow the shape of the barrier.

The more information you supply to drivers the more they are prepared for an alteration in their journey. Traffix installed specially designed temporary road markings and directional and static signage as well as strategically positioned VMS boards along the A45 informing drivers of live journey times.