History and Background
Birmingham's history can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon times and it is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. By the end of the 13th Century it was a fair sized market town and the Bull Ring was the meeting point for the local road system. Birmingham developed into a large town and city after the Industrial Revolution.
In 1936 the Institution of Highway Engineers submitted a scheme for a national motorway system to the Ministry of Transport which included routes from London - Birmingham - Warrington and Gloucester - Coventry - Leicester. In 1938 the County Surveyors Society included similar proposals in its submission and in May 1946 these were included in the Government's motorway framework.
In 1949 Special Roads Act, the Government took powers to construct motorways and in December 1953 the Government announced a roads programme which included the first sections of motorway. A further programme announced in July 1957 included proposals for motorway connections between London and Birmingham, Birmingham and Preston and Bristol and Birmingham. These proposals were developed and refined in the early sixties and in 1967 the Ministry of Transport's Road Construction Units were set up. The Midland Road Construction Unit (MRCU) was responsible for the planning, design and construction of the Birmingham - Nottingham Motorway M42 in the seventies and eighties.
The planning design and construction of the 27 miles long section of the Birmingham - Nottingham Motorway M42 took 21 years to complete. Whilst accepting that it is necessary to have some form of democratic input into the siting of large projects, it cannot be beneficial to the nation for this process to be frustrated by long drawn out Public Inquiries.
This section of the motorway box around the south and eastern side of Birmingham is very heavily used and the government is considering widening this section of motorway to dual 4-lanes.
The ride on the concrete carriageway between junctions 2 and 4 is not as good as the ride on the black top sections on either side. The techniques used to construct the finished surfaces of motorways should be tried and proved elsewhere before being permitted on such an important and heavily trafficked section of motorway.
For statutory procedure purposes the Birmingham - Nottingham Motorway M42 was divided into 3 sections, namely
- Bromsgrove Section. M5 to Monkspath (Junctions 1 to 4)
- Solihull Section. Monkspath to River Cole (Junctions 4 to 7)
- Tamworth to Castle Donnington Section. This section included the length of the M42 from the River Cole to the Curdworth Interchange (Junctions 7 to 11) and the dualled section of A42
The Line Order for the Bromsgrove Section was published by the MRCU in 1972 and 3 Public Inquiries were held in 1973/1974, 1979 and 1984. The outcome of the inquiries lead to appeals to the High Court, court of Appeal and the House of Lords. The statutory procedures for the whole of the Bromsgrove Section were not completed until 1988.
The Solihull Section of the M42 was included in the trunk Road Preparation Pool in 1968. A Public Inquiry into the Line Order was held in 1972 which lasted less than a week and Compulsory Purchase Order inquiry was held in 1973 which lasted 1 day. Construction started in 1974.
The line of the M42 between the River Cole and Curdworth Interchange was published in early 1970's and was the subject of a Public Inquiry in 1972 with the line being confirmed in 1973. The route of the motorway was the subject of 2 Compulsory Purchase Order Inquiries in 1976 and 1980. The Statutory Procedures were completed in 1982.
The Birmingham - Nottingham Motorway M42 (M5 to Curdworth Section) forms the southern part of the strategic link between the M5 and the M1 south-west of Nottingham. It also provides the connection to the northern end of the London - Oxford - Birmingham Motorway M40 at Umberslade. Along with the M5 and M6 the M5 to Curdworth Section of M42 forms the southern and eastern sides of the motorway box around Birmingham. The M42 - A42 strategic route was completed in December 1989 and London - Oxford - Birmingham Motorway was opened to traffic in January 1991.
Free-flow motorway to motorway junctions are provided at:
- Catshill between M5 and M42
- Umberslade between M40 and M42
- Coleshill between M6 and M42.
Six interchanges give access to and from the trunk and Class A routes crossed by the motorway. At the A45 T Interchange (No. 6) access to the National Exhibition Centre is provided.
The M5 to Curdworth Section M42 is 27 miles long and has a dual three lane carriageway with dual two lane slip roads at the M5 - M42 junction at Catshill and the M6 - M42 junction at Water Orton. The motorway and slip roads have a flexible black-top surface except for the Alvechurch Section and part of the Umberslade Section which have a rigid-concrete surface.
Over a hundred bridges carry the motorway over or under side roads, railways, canals and rivers. There are seven railway bridges, one of which was constructed to carry the railway over the motorway before the start of the construction of the Solihull Section.
The motorway crosses the Worcester - Birmingham Canal north of Alvechurch and this necessitated a 450m long diversion of the canal to accommodate the motorway.
Details of the various sections of the scheme, in junction order, follow.
The Northern and Southern Turns (M5(J4A) to J1)
The construction of the Southern Links contract started on 5th August 1985 and the Contractor was John Laing Construction Ltd. The contract provided the southern part of the M5/M42 free flow junction and included the construction of 1.1 miles of dual 3-lane motorway, 0.8 miles of 2-lane link road and 6 bridges.
The largest structure on the contract was the bridge carrying the east bound traffic from the M5 onto the M42. The bridge has 4 spans and an in situ concrete, post tensioned twin spine deck. The traffic management arrangements to enable construction to take place over both carriageways of the M5 were planned in advance of the start of the contract with the Department's Agents, Hereford and Worcester County Council. The contract was completed and opened to traffic in March 1987.
The construction of the Northern Turn formed part of the Catshill to Lydiate Ash M5 widening and reconstruction contract which included the widening of the M5 from 2-lane to dual 3-lane motorway. The Contractor was A.Monk Ltd. The contract started on 6th June 1988.
The Northern Turn part of the contract included the construction of 1.5 miles of 2-lane link road and 5 bridges. The 2 bridges carrying the link road over the M42 and M5 are similar in appearance and form to the 4 span curved structure on the Southern Link contract. The Northern Turn part of the contract was completed in December 1989.
Lickey End (J1) to Alvechurch (J2)
The Lickey End contract started 10 months after the Umberslade contract and included the construction of 4.3 miles of dual 3-lane motorway, 1 interchange and 15 bridges, 3 of which were over railway lines and a canal. The Contractor was R.M. Douglas Construction Ltd.
The contract included two unusual construction features, the treatment and removal of 60,000m³ of household and industrial waste and the construction of 450m of new canal. The motorway cut through 3 tips at the western end of the contract and the toxic material had to be treated before it could be disposed of. The non-toxic material was placed in off-site tips and landscaped. An 80m length of the motorway was constructed over one of the tips, leaving 7m of waste material below the motorway.
The Worcester and Birmingham canal was diverted to its new alignment as a result of representations made at the 1974 Public Inquiry. The canal diversion is about 12m wide and 1.2m deep, and its opening in March 1985 was celebrated by a procession of decorated canal boats with hooters sounding.
The construction of the Lickey End contract was completed in May 1986 and on 5th June 1986, the Lickey End and Alvechurch sections were opened. Traffic could now travel from the Lickey End A38 Interchange to the Curdworth Interchange A446, using the Lickey End, Alvechurch, Umberslade, Solihull and Water Orton contracts.
Alvechurch (J2 to J3) and Umberslade (J3 to J4) Sections
The second section of the M42 to open was the Umberslade Section in 1985 and this section was the first of 3 sections at the southern end of M42 which were constructed during the period May 1983 to June 1986. The construction of the Umberslade and Alvechurch Sections was undertaken by the same Contractor, Dowsett Engineering Construction Ltd.
Together the two contracts included the construction 8.7 miles of dual 3-lane motorway, half of the M40/M42 junction at Umberslade, two interchanges and 19 bridges. During the tender period the Contractors were instructed to price both the cost of a flexible black-top pavement and a rigid concrete pavement. On both contracts the construction of a concrete pavement was the cheaper alternative. Of the 2 contracts Alvechurch was the smaller. It was 2.4 miles long and included the construction of 5 bridges. It was completed well within the contract period.
The Umberslade contract was 6.3 miles long and included the construction of 14 bridges, 2 of which were over a railway line and a canal. The contract got off to a slow start as the first 2 months were very wet and this delayed the start of the earthworks. This delay had a knock-on effect on the subsequent operations and the contract finished 20 weeks late.
Both contracts have a rigid concrete pavement. The pavement is unreinforced concrete 300mm thick with transverse joints at 5m intervals and a longitudinal joint down the middle of both carriageways. The concrete pavement was slip-formed using a paver incorporating a device which automatically placed the contraction joint dowel bars into the fresh concrete while the paver was moving forward. This process had not been used before in this country and probably accounts, in part, for the roughness of the ride.