As part of the economic regeneration of Newhaven and its port in the UK, a range of commercial and residential development works are planned for the area. Crucial to this regeneration is the construction of the new port access road.
Commercial traffic heading to and from Newhaven Port is currently directed along the existing residential Railway Road and Beach Road. Aiming to significantly reduce the commercial traffic flow through those residential areas, the new port access road will provide direct access into the East Quay area of the Port.
The new access road is a 0.7km single lane carriageway with adjacent cycleway and footpath and includes the construction of a 120m long viaduct that spans over Network Rail's Newhaven to Seaford line and a tributary of the River Ouse (Mill Creek).
With experience in delivering a multi-disciplinary approach to main contractors, BAM Nuttall Ltd called upon Socotec to provide a range of services for this high-profile project, including unexploded ordnance (UXO), ground investigation works, geotechnical and rail track instrumentation and monitoring, buried utility surveys, background noise surveys, and earthworks and concrete compliance testing.
A number of pre-construction services have been delivered by Socotec in order to identify the existing conditions of the site and areas adjacent to the site, starting with establishing the risk of any unexploded ordnance (UXO).
The area of Newhaven Docks had been exposed to various forms of ordnance during World War II and, as such, the risk of UXO was identified. The contract required BAM Nuttall to undertake magnetometer surveys across the site prior to any construction works in order to mitigate the risk of UXO.
Socotec worked closely with BAM Nuttall during the preconstruction phase to establish if an alternative solution could be considered. Those conversations resulted in a more detailed UXO risk assessment being carried out and established that the prevailing UXO risk was within acceptable limits, i.e. low/very low, and that magnetometer surveys were no longer required.
As a consequence of the detailed risk assessment, cost and time benefits for the project were realised, while still retaining a high level of health and safety. Once the risk from UXO had been established as low, ground investigation works could be carried out to help inform the design of the foundations.
Due to the site's coastal location at the mouth of the River Ouse, the site is underlain by various layers of alluvial deposits that extend to a typical depth of about 35m below ground level, whereupon chalk is encountered. Given these expected ground conditions, a targeted ground investigation (GI) was undertaken at the locations of the southern and northern abutments to prove the exact depth and composition of the alluvium and to inform the design of the deep foundations.
The GI comprised the construction of boreholes by cable percussion and rotary methods to depths of up to 60m, and the subsequent laboratory analysis of the recovered samples. At the location of the proposed northern abutment, cone penetration tests (CPT) were also undertaken to establish additional engineering properties of the soils at these locations.
In addition to the ground investigation, ‘T-Bar' penetration tests were undertaken at an interim stage of the embankment construction to establish the in-situ shear strength of the alluvial soils. Utilising a cable percussion method of drilling, Socotec pre-bored through the granular embankment fill and installed casing to provide temporary support. The ‘T-Bar' penetration tests were then undertaken at those locations to establish if the soils had achieved the required gain in strength to confirm the design assumptions and verify that the placement of additional fill could resume without risk of instability.
Monitoring rail assets
As well as carrying out GI works to understand ground conditions across the site, Socotec's specialist geotechnical monitoring team - Socotec Monitoring - installed in-ground and surface geotechnical instrumentation to the north and south of Mill Creek to provide BAM Nuttall with information on the soil settlement profiles and the stability of the embankments during and immediately after their construction.
Track monitoring sensors have also been installed to monitor Network Rail's asset during the construction works, especially during pile foundations, to provide assurance that any ground movement is within Network Rail's safety criteria. The automated and manual monitoring instrumentation is being used to establish the extent of any settlement, the change in porewater pressures, the horizontal displacement within the embankments and the twist and cant of the adjacent rail tracks.
All of the automated instruments are connected to a wireless network on site, with data being automatically uploaded to Socotec Monitoring's web-based data visualisation platform, Calyx OMS. Data from the manual instrumentation is recovered by the contractor and manually uploaded to the same platform. Where applicable, trigger levels are set and, if breached, alerts are immediately sent by text to the contractor's management team.
As well as understanding the composition and stability of the ground prior to works beginning, mapping and identification of the existing buried structures beneath the proposed route of the access road formed a vital part of BAM Nuttall's management plan and, as such, a range of utility and geophysical surveys were conducted to do exactly this.
As the surveys department within Socotec amalgamates both utility and geophysical services, the contractor had access to a wide range of bespoke utility detection solutions, where standard PAS-128 methods would otherwise be ineffective.
A utility detection survey was carried out comprising industry-standard PAS-128 GPR methods to detect power and foul sewer systems. And, as the site consisted partly of steep gradients, was overgrown and had the potential for deep cables, an electro-magnetic mapping survey was also undertaken to detect deeper services, as this method is better suited to these challenging topographic conditions.
Correlated with service records, the surveys served to determine the position, size and type of utilities located below the site to inform the road design, indicating which, if any of the buried structures, may require diverting.
With ground composition, stability and the location of any existing buried structures understood, attention turned to the possible impact of construction works above ground.
Several residential and commercial areas are located in close proximity to the development site, so it was important to understand how any noise generated by the construction works will impact these adjacent receptors.
Socotec's environmental team undertook a baseline noise survey at two noise-sensitive receptor locations to monitor the existing background levels prior to commencement of the construction works. The surveys were undertaken in accordance with BS5228-1 (2009) and, based on the results, allow BAM Nuttall to ensure that noise levels are limited to within acceptable levels and compliant with the recommendations set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). You can read more about environmental noise monitoring in this blog.
With preconstruction services in place to test and monitor a range of existing below and above ground conditions, the final service being delivered by Socotec ensures that materials such as concrete and aggregates are compliant with the project's earthworks specification.
The construction of the Newhaven Port access road requires approximately 1,000m3 of in-situ concrete, 5,000m3 of Class 6 granular material and 60,0000m3 of class 1 ballast as dredged material. Over the next 18 months, Socotec is providing a range of in-situ and laboratory tests to demonstrate that these materials and their placement comply with the project's earthworks specification.
All sampling and testing is undertaken by Socotec's technicians in accordance with UKAS accreditation, which is based upon the current European and British Standards. Nuclear density gauges are utilised to provide in-situ results of the moisture and density of the compacted soils so that the degree of compaction can be immediately assessed and compliance confirmed. In addition, an on-site, temperature-controlled, concrete sample curing facility is provided to ensure that sample storage fully complies with the stringent requirements of the UKAS accreditation.
Results from the in-situ and laboratory tests are uploaded onto Socotec's web-based digital management system, MiPortal, allowing the contractor to immediately access all of the test data and trend analysis reports. Project-specific documents, such as risk assessments and method statements, are also made available via this reporting platform.
Time and cost savings
Working with Socotec as a single sub-contractor across multiple specialist preconstruction and construction services has provided a number of benefits to the contractor, including time efficiencies and cost savings.
Michael Astley-Heilbronn, senior site agent for BAM Nuttall, who has been working closely with Socotec on this project, says: "Early engagement between BAM Nuttall and Socotec UK at tender stage enabled us to clearly consider and make provision for a range of important aspects, such as ground conditions and risks to third party assets. This partnership then continued through the pre-construction phase resulting in us identifying direct efficiencies that positively benefited both our programme and our budget. This approach of delivering a range of professional services in a collaborative way and via a single sub-contractor just makes sense, as it reduces the likelihood of errors and gives us the confidence that we need to deliver a complex project."
The Newhaven Port access road project provides an excellent example of how working with a single contractor to deliver multiple specialists services can deliver time efficiencies and cost savings for a client.
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