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M69. Coventry to Leicester Motorway

 

Planning

The planning brief was issued by the Midland Road Construction Unit (MRCU) to the Warwickshire County Council Sub Unit in 1968. The Sub Unit was required to study the traffic needs in the Strensham (M5/M50) to Leicester (M1/A46) corridor and between Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester (M6/A46/A47).

A feasibility study was undertaken by the Sub Unit in 1968 and 1969 and covered a range of traffic and land use subjects. After considering various alternatives the study proposed an alignment which commenced at junction 2 on the M6 north-east of Coventry and which threaded its way between the villages and towns of Ansty, Shilton, Builkington, Wolvey, Hinckley, Stoney Stanton, Earl Shilton and Huncote. The proposed route terminated at junction 21 on the M1 south-west of Leicester.

Statutory Procedures

As required by the Highway Act 1959 the draft Section 11 line orders were published in November 1971. The draft orders included the provision of interchanges south of Hinckley with the A5 (Watling Street) and east of Hinckley with the A5070. Connections to the existing M6 and M1 motorways were also included in the line orders. The draft Section 13 side road and the Compulsory Purchase Orders were published in April 1972.

A Public Inquiry was held at Hinckley in October 1972 where a Government appointed Inspector heard objections to the proposals and examined the impact of the route of proposed motorway on the farming community located on both sides of the motorway.

The main line, side road and Compulsory Purchase Orders were confirmed in 1973.

Design

The Coventry – Leicester Motorway is 25.3km long and has dual 3-lane carriageways 11.0m wide with 3.3m hard shoulders and a 4.0m central reserve. Forty bridges were constructed to carry the motorway over or under the existing railways, canals, side roads, farm access tracks and public footpaths.

The route of the motorway, which runs through a rural mixed farming area, was designed to cause as little interference as possible to the existing development on either side of the motorway.

The alignment of the motorway was determined using the British Integrated Suite of Programmes.

The geology encountered along the route consisted of varying depths of glacial deposits overlying Triassic Keuper Mari. Slopes of 1:2 were appropriate for the sides of the shallow cuts and fills. Where the motorway passes close to houses, landscaped earth mounds were provided to reduce the effects of noise.

The pavement details were:

Coventry Section:

  • 40mm hot rolled asphalt wearing course
  • 105mm dense bitumen macadam base course
  • 210mm lean concrete road base
  • 320mm crushed rock sub base
  • (675mm construction thickness)

Leicester Section:

  • 265mm pavement quality concrete
  • 185mm crushed rock sub base
  • (450mm construction thickness)

The design was completed by the middle of 1973 but Government 'cut-backs' delayed the start of construction until 6 January 1975.

Construction

For construction purposes the motorway was divided into two contracts, the Coventry Section and the Leicester Section.

Leicester Section: Contractor, Sir Alfred McAlpine & Son (Southern) Ltd.

The contract consisted of:

  • 13km of Dual 3-Lane Motorway with hardshoulders.
  • 3.2km of 2-Lane Link Road with hardshoulders.
  • 5.5km of Side Road Diversions.
  • 2 Interchanges
  • 20 Bridges.

The two long, warm, dry summers of 1975 and 1976 considerably assisted the two major operations of the contract, the earthworks and the concrete paving. Despite difficulties, the earthworks were completed to enable the concrete paver to have a clear run through the whole length of the contract in Summer 1976.

The concrete paving operation took 10 weeks to complete. A slip form paver was used to complete one carriageway in one pass and averaged 650m of carriageway/day.

The motorway between the Hinckley Interchange (A5070) and the M1 junction 21 was opened to traffic on 21 December 1976.

The tender total was £9,785,583 and the final cost of the contract was about £15.3m.

Coventry Section: Contractor, Dowsett Engineering Construction Ltd.

The contract consisted of:

  • 11.8km of Dual 3-Lane Motorway with hardshoulders
  • 5.3km of 2-Lane Link Road with hardshoulders
  • 6.0km of Side Road Diversions
  • 2 Interchanges
  • 20 Bridges.

The contract started on 19 May 1975 and experienced the same early earthwork difficulties as the Leicester contract. After top soil strip areas of waterlogged sand were found below lengths of shallow embankment. The use of de-watering techniques and the importing of large volumes of rock to stabilise soft areas under embankments and at formation level in cuttings seriously delayed and disrupted the Contractor's earthworks programme.

The tender toal was £12,530,251 and the final cost of the contract was £18,300,000.

The Coventry and Leicester Sections of M69 were officially opened by Mr John Horam MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State forTransport on 12th July 1977.

Conclusions

In retrospect the completion of 25.3km of motorway from inception to opening in nine years was remarkable by 1990's standards. The motorway was not affected by the delaying tactics of outside pressure groups.

In 1989 the Coventry Eastern Bypass was opened enabling traffic using the M69 to bypass the urban areas of Coventry.