M74 opens to traffic early following successful bridge demolition

Part of the M74 motorway, the main arterial route between Scotland and England, re-opened to traffic at around 11:30pm last night, over six hours ahead of schedule, following the first planned closure of the road in its 50 year history.

As part of the £500m M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, the M74 was closed to traffic in both directions for the weekend, from 8pm on Friday 18th November.  The closure was required to allow engineers to demolish Bothwellpark Road Bridge, to the north of Junction 5 Raith, with the road scheduled to re-open at 6am on Monday in time for the morning peak time traffic.

However, Transport Scotland re-opened the M74 in both directions, between Junction 4 Maryville and Junction 5 Raith, just after 11:30pm on Sunday evening – over six hours ahead of the scheduled 6am opening - following a hugely successful 51 hour construction operation.

As road users returned in their thousands to one of Scotland’s busiest routes for the Monday morning commute, Transport Scotland released exclusive time-lapse video footage showing the enormity of the task to bring down one of the highest bridges on Scotland’s motorway network.

Standing 12 metres above the carriageway, the old bridge was substantially taller than the average motorway bridge and had been designed without a central support. As a result, the operation to demolish it was a major challenge for engineers who needed to get the busy route re-opened as quickly as possible.

Graeme Reid, Transport Scotland Project Manager for the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project, explained: “This was the last of six bridges to be demolished as part of this essential project to improve Central Scotland’s motorway network, all of which were able to be carried out overnight. However, with no central pier to support each side of this structure, we had no option but to close the road for the weekend to ensure the safety of road users and our workforce.

“I’m delighted to report that the months of planning to bring down this bridge and the co-ordination of our many stakeholders, including Police Scotland, the emergency services and local authorities, has made for a highly successful operation, and I’d like to thank everyone involved for their efforts.

“Thanks must also go to the thousands of road users who listened to our advice and changed their travel plans over the weekend to avoid the area; without their help, we simply couldn’t have achieved such a successful outcome.”

The time-lapse footage shows two metres of protective material being laid on the motorway carriageway on Friday evening, before two high-reach excavators on five metre high temporary platforms on each side of the bridge began to ‘peck’ the concrete on the central span, bringing the bridge down in a safe and controlled manner.

The two Komatsu high-reach machines, normally used for the demolition of tall buildings, were then joined by a further seven smaller excavators to demolish the outer spans. In total, more than 500 tonnes of concrete, rubble and steel fell onto the carriageway during the early hours of Saturday morning and continued until late Saturday night.

This mound of material then had to be removed from the carriageway and transported to a nearby processing area on site to be recycled. The recycled material will be reused to construct new link roads and junctions as part of the major up-grade of the M8, M73 and M74 motorways.

The bridge was the final structure to be demolished as part of this £500m infrastructure improvement project which is being delivered by Scottish Roads Partnership (SRP) on behalf of Transport Scotland.

Gabriel Valtueña-Ramos, General Manager of SRP, said: “Our contractors Ferrovial Lagan Joint Venture and Amey worked round the clock to ensure the weekend demolition went as smoothly as possible, with 24 hour monitoring of the surrounding road network in place to minimise traffic disruption, and I’d like to thank all involved for contributing to the success of this complex and challenging operation.”  

Construction teams also took advantage of the motorway closure to re-surface large parts of the three mile stretch of road between J4 Maryville and J5 Raith and undertake a range of other construction operations.

When the new roads open in Spring 2017, the M8 M73 M74 Motorway Improvements Project will significantly reduce congestion across the central Scotland motorway network, shaving approximately 20 minutes off the daily commute from Glasgow to Edinburgh and 15 minutes through Junction 5 Raith.

Published 21 Nov 2016