Part of construction includes infrastructure, things which connect towns and cities, benefit societies and improve the world we live in.  

The project we are taking a closer look at is all about improvements to infrastructure, specifically, a series of roads in Scotland. The M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvement Project is a part of a £500m investment by Scottish Government, with a number of benefits attached to it.  

The project was, at the time, the largest to be awarded as part of the Scottish Government’s £2.5 billion Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) model 

Objectives of the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvement Project 

The M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project upgraded the core of Scotland’s motorway network, improving connections between the commercial centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh and beyond. Like all construction projects, it had objectives set prior to any work being done, which were then used in the design and planning stages. 

Economy 

By creating better access to areas in Scotland, the project sought to increase employment rates in those locations. This would promote sustainable economic growth as more people working and commuting to those areas would boost the local economy.  

There were also considerations made to reducing journey times and easing congestion during rush hours and peak times, to allow for better quality commutes.  

Safety 

Improved road safety would be achieved by reducing traffic on local roads, revising junction layouts, and reducing lane changing (to help prevent weaving between lanes). 

The project would also reduce the average travel times for key journeys at peak times by separating motorway and local traffic and reducing the number of vehicles using major interchanges during those hours. 

Environment 

Reduced congestion and traffic volumes on local roads would lower emissions and improve air quality for the surrounding areas. A sustainable drainage system would treat runoff from areas of the existing motorway network, plus the surrounding landscape was considered for noise pollution. Local wildlife and its movements were considered with mammal tunnels, fences, and bridges included. 

Integration 

The project aimed to provide a motorway connection to Eurocentralone of the largest industrial estates in Scotland. It would also complement other developments in the area improving transport links across Central Scotland and beyond. 

Accessibility 

As well as meaning people could access the motorway network more easily, the project separated walkways and cycleways alongside adjacent routes to make it accessible for non-motorised users. This also improved the connections between local communities and businesses, with almost 10 miles of new pedestrian and cycle routes.  

Stages of the project 

The project was a large one, so was broken down into three main sections: 

  • The new M8 motorway link - The new M8 motorway link completed the motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, connecting the motorway at Baillieston to the motorway at Newhouse. 
  • M74 Raith Junction improvement - Raith Junction is a roundabout linking the M74 motorway with the A725 Bellshill Bypass and East Kilbride Expressway. 
  • Network upgrades - These included the new cycle and walkways constructed across the improved junction, for greater accessibility. 
M8 M73 M74 road improvements

These included the new cycle and walkways constructed across the improved junction, for greater accessibility. 

All construction projects follow a similar process from ‘procurement’ (finding the right people to do the work, at the best price and within agreed timescales), to the start of physical construction. Procurement for the project was announced in December 2011 and bidders competed for the contract throughout 2013. The successful bidder was Scottish Roads Partnership (SRP), with support from Ferrovial Agroman and Lagan, in February 2014. 

SRP will also be responsible for managing, operating, and maintaining this core section of the motorway network for 30 years following completion. 

The M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvement Project’s £500 million price tag included the construction, operation, maintenance, and finance of the project roads for over 30 years. Funding came from both the European Investment Bank (EIB), and a group of investors managed by Allianz Global Investors, one of the world’s leading integrated financial services providers. 

Use of Building Information Modelling during construction 

An exciting element of this construction project was its use of BIM, short for building information modelling. This 3D technology is often used during the design process, to help plan, maintain, and manage projects more effectively, even after completion. It’s a way of gathering all the information about a project, in multiple dimensions and using CAD (computer aided design) so everyone can see what they need such as architectural designs, materials, and building procedures. 

Since this is a relatively new form of construction tech, the project trialled it on the most complex part of the project to be up-graded, Raith Interchange, Junction 5 of the M74. At Raith Junction, engineers had to construct an underpass below the nearby River Clyde, as well as relocate a lot of underground utilities. It was an ideal area as it could be treated as a stand-alone section. 

The use of BIM at Raith Junction was a great success. It allowed for greater visibility and collaboration between the design and construction team, plus the virtual model reduced errors during on site construction due to its design clash detection technology. 

Workers could also replicate construction techniques and methods on the virtual model to test them for safety, meaning safer working environments for everyone involved. 

As well as improving construction projects, BIM opens up new and exciting job roles too, including BIM technician and BIM manager

Shawhead Junction – a challenging location 

One of the greatest challenges in the project was upgrading the Shawhead Junction which sits between Whifflet and Coatbridge in the north and Bellshill and Bothwell to the south; made up of three junctions, connecting trunk and local roads in the area. It was previously frequently congested and one of the busiest junctions in the project. 

Keeping roads open during the construction was key to moving traffic as works went on. At Shawhead this was particularly important as the A725 and its road network connect here. To make sure things went smoothly, contractors: 

  • Diverted major utilities in the area (including gas, power, and communications cables for various companies) 
  • Kept disruption during construction to a minimum for local residential housing  
  • Minimised the impact on industrial and business land near the construction site 
  • Considered non-motorised users as well as road traffic to keep communities connected 
  • Reduced the impact of the construction on the local environment including woodland and watercourses 

Signalised junctions replaced roundabouts at three locations at Shawhead junction, helping to provide traffic control, easing congestion, and better connecting local roads. Local communities were encouraged to be involved with the design of this tricky aspect of the project, with extensive consultations including public exhibitions and drop-in events taking place. 

Operation and maintenance 

SRP through its subcontractor Amey, is responsible for managing, operating, and maintaining this core section of the Scottish trunk road network on behalf of Scottish Ministers until 2047. The plan is to complete maintenance works after regular inspections and surveys are carried out. 

Defects and incidents will be dealt with, although a priority is to maintain good traffic flow where possible. 

The benefits brought about by the project 

The M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project opened to traffic on 1 June 2017. As well as meeting the objectives we outlined above, this project created: 

  • 50 long-term employment opportunities to date during the operation and maintenance phase 
  • 40 vocational training apprentice site placements 
  • 27 professional graduate training site placements 
  • 104 sub-contract opportunities  
  • 8 training opportunities during construction such as placements, work experience, and workplace 'taster' opportunities aimed at young and local individuals 

Overall, the project succeeded in creating new and improved routes for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, connecting communities and creating economic growth thanks to making commutes possible and easing congestion.  

Find out more about the M8 M73 M74 Project 

To learn more about this project, in detail, head to Transport Scotland.   

Want to get started in construction and work on projects like this one? Explore the different roles on our site, or take a look at apprenticeships, a great way to get into the industry. 

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