Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, has announced the award of a £129m scheme to upgrade a 13.4 mile stretch of the M3 through Hampshire and Surrey to a “smart motorway”. The upgrade, for the UK Government's Highways Agency, will increase capacity, reduce congestion and shorten journey times for the 120,000 motorists who pass through this part of the network every day.
The M3 between Junction 2 (interchange with the M25) and Junction 4a (Fleet) will be upgraded to a four-lane motorway by converting the hard shoulder to a permanent running lane. Electronic signs, operated by a regional control centre, will be installed to manage the flow of traffic in response to driving conditions.
Mobilisation work is due to start at the beginning of August. Main construction works is due to start this autumn with completion scheduled for spring 2017. Construction activity will include installing and refurbishing gantries, new static and variable signs, concrete safety barriers, drainage and surfacing works.
The contract is the latest in a series awarded to Balfour Beatty since the company was appointed to the Highways Agency's National Major Projects Framework in 2010. In June 2014, Balfour Beatty was awarded the £184m M60 J8 to M62 J20 smart motorway scheme. In April 2014 the company's construction joint venture with Skanska completed upgrading a 12 mile stretch of the M25 to a smart motorway, and in January 2014 Balfour Beatty completed upgrading parts of the M4 and M5 to a smart motorway in a £88m scheme.
Balfour Beatty executive chairman Steve Marshall said: "The Highways Agency's approach to using technology in this way reduces the costs of the road network, provides additional capacity and improves journey times. This award further strengthens our position as one of the UK's leading contractors for smart motorways and reflects the strength of the relationship we have built with the Highways Agency over the last 20 years. ”
The M3 passes through Chobham Common, one of the largest areas of heathland in Surrey, and Balfour Beatty's sustainable design will take into account ecological considerations with natural habitats reinstated and enhanced.