£355m A63 upgrade will help to provide opportunities for local businesses in Hull
The £355 million upgrade of Hull’s ‘main entrance’ will provide opportunities for local businesses.
Highways England will today (Thursday, June 18) receive the formal Development Consent Order for the huge A63 Castle Street project.
The complete transformation of Mytongate junction is the focal point of the massive scheme, and the agency is now working with contractor Balfour Beatty and Hull City Council to ensure economic benefit in the build, as well as the result.
And it is a familiar location for senior project manager James Leeming – who spent two years as a traffic consultant with Hull City Council two decades ago – while unusual in nature for Highways England.
Mr Leeming, who is also the Yorkshire and Humber regional chair of the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation, said: “It is a really unique, challenging scheme. When you drive on the strategic network, most of the time you are nowhere near a city centre, on the likes of the M1 and A1. This project goes right through the middle of a city.
“The one thing everyone knows is that you cannot shut the A63 in the daytime. The city centre cannot cope with it. If we do need to close the road it will be night time and weekends. We are also working with the city council to get their network up to scratch before the main underpass work starts.
“For the first 18 months not many people will notice a difference, it will be isolated elements of improvement.”
Immediate work has seen the discharging of conditions in relation to the order, which comes into effect today.
“It will be split into two,” Mr Leeming said of the project he has been involved with for three years, with others many more before.
It was given financial backing in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget back in March, with the consent from the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, following late last month.
What lies beneath the area has been the initial focus, and that continues. “The first 18 months to two years will be the mobilisation period,” Mr Leeming said, with Trinity Burial Ground a key factor, but not the only city subterranean legacy. “We have careful exhumation and reburial work, the removal of pipes and KCom infrastructure, with a large sewer diversion, and lots of other pipes and cables that need to be moved to clear the way.
“There will be a lot of accommodation works, access roads, and the closure of roads in Old Town.
“We are nearing completion on the bridge now, then there’s another bridge at Porter Street, for full cycle and pedestrian use again.
“Then it comes to the underpass. It will involve the creation of a huge bathtub in the city centre, and people will have to divert to cross. We will have to make sure signage is very clear, and as resilient as possible. A scheme of this nature, one of the most important jobs is to make sure all activity goes to plan. We don’t want people stuck in queues, we want people to have the right information ahead of travel.”
The main underpass work will be late 2021 or new year 2022 “if we get a good wind”.
“There are lots of unknowns in a city centre,” he said. “We have exhumed a number of bodies, but until you start digging you just don’t know. Plans are in place and it is a really interesting part of the project. It is exciting for the people of Hull – it has been a long time coming.”
Peaking at about 200 workers, Mr Leeming told how Balfour Beatty is the delivery partner, but that there will be a core Highways England team on site and a “big supply chain”.
On the contractor community, he said: “We are working very closely with Balfour Beatty to get local firms involved, there will be plenty of opportunities.
“There will also be lots of people coming into Hull, staying over in Hull,aiding the local economy for five years.”
And of his earlier time in the city as a traffic signalling consultant, having been brought up in Huddersfield and now based in Wakefield, he said: “I spent a lot of time driving round the city, and I’m pretty sure I did a survey on Mytongate junction – it is strange how things go round in a full circle.
“We’re all really excited, and while we’re working at home now, it will be great to get out to site in the next few weeks and see how we progress.”