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A1(M) & A66(M). The Darlington By-Pass motorway (J56 to J59)

 

Darlington is an early industrial town based on the former N. E. R. locomotive works, iron and brass foundries and worsted mills. The history of the project is well documented.

A by-pass of Darlington was first considered in September 1929, when a proposal to widen and utilise Carmel Road met with strong opposition. Three other lines were therefore considered, one to the east and two to the west of Darlington, and eventually a line was located west of the cemetery and coinciding for some of its length with Nickstream Lane. The overall highway width was then to be 60 ft., the total length 5½ miles and the estimated cost £240,000. New bridge crossings over the River Tees for all three schemes were in the vicinity of Blackwell Bridge, one being to the east and the other two to the west, in the bend of the river known as "The Holmes". This scheme was shelved during the economic depression in July, 1930.

In 1935 the overall highway width for the by-pass was amended to 120 ft. but no further action was taken.

Following the passing of the Trunk Road Act in 1936, a draft Order to protect the line of the by-pass agreed in 1930 was published in January, 1938, and ultimately made in December, 1938.

Planning work on the project was shelved during the war and when it resumed in 1945, three much longer lines for the by-pass came under consideration as part of a national road plan. They were as follows:

  • Ministry of transport local line located west of Darlington and also west of the Merrybent mineral railway line.
  • Merrett-Bates (Durham County Council) line located west of Darlington and passing through Sadberge.
  • Pepler-McFarlane line traversing the eastern side of Durham County and passing well to the east of Darlington.

Ultimately the Ministry of Transport line was adopted and a Trunk Road Order was made in August 1948, to protect this line and to rescind the previous Order made in 1938.

About this time the old Merrybent mineral railway line was abandoned over the whole of its length from Archdeacon Newton in County Durham to Barton Quarry in the North Riding of Yorkshire, so that in June, 1950, the opportunity was taken to move the line of the by-pass slightly eastward to coincide generally with the abandoned railway line as far south as its crossing of Barton Beck. Severance would thereby be minimised and the area of agricultural land required for construction purposes would be much reduced. A further Trunk Road Order was made in December, 1950, to the rescind the previous Order, made in 1948, which protected the old line but no new Order was made to protect the new line.

After the passing of the Special Roads Act in 1949, the Ministry of Transport decided to include the Darlington By-pass in the proposed network of new Motorways. This meant that access to the road would be restricted, and that its use would be limited to certain classes of traffic. Due to the financial restriction on roadworks, progress on preparatory planning work was held up. Eventually, however, the two County Councils of Durham and North Riding of Yorkshire undertook the necessary investigations and consultations, with the result that the draft scheme for the Darlington By-pass Motorway and the draft Barton By-pass Trunk Road Order at its southern terminal were both published by the Ministry of Transport in 1956 and became operative in 1957. The Ministry then invited the Durham County Council to survey and design works in both counties. By agreement with the North Riding of Yorkshire County Council, the Durham County Council accepted this invitation on the reciprocal basis whereby the North Riding would carry out the whole of similar work on the Thornaby Link road in the east of the two counties.

Survey and design work started in earnest in September, 1957, and consultations ensued with the Ministry of Transport to agree the standards to be adopted for the realignment for county and other roads affected by the Motorway. Consultations also took place with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to determine the number and location of farm accesses to be provided across the Motorway. The design work had reached and advanced stage when, in 1959, due to a sustained objection to the line of the Barton Trunk Road By-pass, the Ministry of Transport decided to amend the alignment of the Motorway at its southern end. The line of the Barton Trunk Road By-pass was abandoned and the main motorway alignment was swung westwards and extended further south along the line of the disused mineral railway line through Barton Quarry to join the existing Trunk Road A1 near Kneeton Corner. A two-level roundabout connection was located in Barton Quarry and a motorway spur taken from the main motorway south of Cleasby to a single level roundabout near Blackwell Bridge to form a southern connection for Darlington and Tees-side traffic. Opportunity was also taken to revise certain standards, particularly the width of hard shoulders and verges, construction of hard shoulders and clearances at bridges. The statutory procedure, involving various stages and allowing several possibilities for objection by persons aggrieved by the proposals, had to be recommended and much additional ground covered by detail survey on the section south of the River Tees.

Several alternative alignments were investigated in the area of Barton Quarry and for the Spur Link to Darlington (to become the A66(M)) in order to secure the best engineering line before the amended draft Motorway scheme was published by the Ministry of Transport in May, 1961. Several objections were made to the scheme but after due consideration by the Minister, the scheme was confirmed in December, 1961, to become operative in January, 1962.

To facilitate construction work during the main Motorway contract, it was decided to construct certain works in advance and in particular three bridges which span features forming considerable barriers to plant movement."

Bridge over the River TeesThe bridges over the River Tees and the Barnard Castle / Darlington Railway line were let to the Cementation Co. Ltd in 1961 and completed in June 1963.

The bridge carrying the Bishop Auckland/Darlington Railway line over the motorway was let to the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Co. Ltd in June 1962 and completed in June the following year.

In addition work was completed by the County Council direct labour force on the construction of two major culverts required to carry large diameter trunk water mains under the Motorway. Work was also undertaken by the North Eastern Electricity Board on alterations to important high voltage electricity cables.

Bridge carrying the Bishop Auckland to Darlington railway lineCertain country roads and a bridge over the Bishop Auckland / Darlington Railway line which it was anticipated would carry the construction traffic required for the main contractor to and from the site, were realigned, widened and / or strengthened by the respective County Highways Departments.

As soon as the statutory scheme and Order procedure had reached the appropriate stage, the Ministry of Transport instructed the District Valuer, Darlington, to open negotiations for the acquisition of all the land required for the scheme. At the same time three Compulsory Purchase Orders were prepared in draft form to ensure that entry on the land could be obtained by April 1st, 1963, in case negotiations carried on by the District Valuer had not then reached finality. There were numerous objections to the main Compulsory Purchase Order and all the objectors were given the opportunity to state their objections at a Public Enquiry held in Darlington Council Chamber on September 26th, 1962. Following resolutions of the objections, the Order was finally made on 21st January, 1963.

Comprehensive contract documents were prepared, together with approximately 360 contract plans, and the Contract advertised on December 15th, 1962. Seven tenders for the scheme were received on February 20th, 1963, and the Contract ultimately awarded to Messrs. Dowsett Engineering Ltd. of Gateshead, with a starting date on 16th April, 1963, for the sum of £5,231,613. 11s. 11d. with a contract period of 24 months.

On Monday 6th May 1963 the Rt. Hon. Earnest Marples MP Minister of Transport "cut the first sod" at the inauguration of the work.

Barton Quarry interchangeDowsetts' contract provided for the construction of 10½ miles of motorway to by-pass Darlington and Barton, with an additional 2 mile spur to Darlington A66(M). In addition 9½ miles of side roads were re-aligned and reconstructed.

It was the first stage of the 31 mile Durham motorway and an important part in the Ministry of Transport modernisation of the Great North Road. It gave relief to the important Borough of Darlington by removal of a substantial volume of heavy lorry and other fast traffic.

The by-pass runs from just north of Kneeton Corner, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, to Crumbley Corner in County Durham. It passes through country entirely rural in character and follows closely the line of the old disused Merrybent Railway thus minimising severance. The only property affected being the old Station House at Barton and some glasshouses at the Merrybent Nurseries.

The design speed was 75 mph, minimum radius curves of 2,865 ft. and maximum gradients of 1 in 40. The overall width was 105 ft. and 95 ft. at bridges.

The geology composed mainly glacial clay deposits with pockets of gravel, sand, peat and some alluvium. Rock also occurs as both Magnesian and Carboniferous limestone.

The total earthworks of 3¾ million cu. yds. included 900,000 cu. yds. of imported fill.

The dual 24 ft. carriages with a 10 ft. hard shoulder were separated by a 15 ft. central reservation. The construction being 10 in. composite flexible base on a minimum of 18 in. sub-base surfaced with 4 in. of hot rolled asphalt. Surfacing work was carried out by Constable Hart and Co. Ltd.

The 34 bridges comprised a mixture of steel, pre-stressed concrete and composite construction.

Dowsett Engineering Construction Ltd. divided the contract into two sections, one northern and one south of the River Tees, each being under the direct control of a Section Agent working under the main Project Agent. The Durham County Council Resident Staff was allocated on the same basis with two Section Engineers supported by the appropriate complement of Engineering Staff, Clerks of Works and Inspectors. The separate sub-contract for bridges carried out by Brims and Co. Ltd., was supervised by a separate County Council bridge engineer and staff with the overall co-ordination carried out by the Chief Resident Engineer. This breakdown worked out very well in practice.

Ripping Carboniferous limestoneDuring the peak periods of construction - in the summer and autumn of 1964 - the payments on monthly measurements well in excess of £300,000 were maintained over a continuous period of some six months. The main contractor and sub-contractors deployed very considerable resources of heavy plant, and the maximum number of men employed on the project during the peak period of construction varied between 750 and 800.

The Contractors made the fullest possible use of local indigenous materials, using imported fill from borrow pits, hard well burnt red shale from a number of old colliery heaps in Durham County, and a hard carboniferous limestone won from a new quarry opened up at Barton.

Full laboratory and testing control was maintained throughout the period of the contract by County Council staff operating from a well equipped site laboratory. The main contractors retained the services of Messrs. Sandberg, specialised testing consultants to look after their interests and a good measure of co-operation was maintained throughout.

The whole of the design work and the supervision of construction was carried out by the staff of the County Engineer and Surveyor.

The total cost of the by-pass amounted to some £6½ million.

The Darlington By-pass A1(M) together with the 2 mile Motorway Spur to Blackwell Bridge and Darlington A66(M) was opened on the 14th May 1965 by the Rt Hon. Tom Fraser, Minister of Transport who cut the tape across the Southbound carriageway.