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M74/A74(M) Fullarton Road to Guardsmill

 M74. Maryville-Draffan (Junctions 1 to 9)

This relatively short (13 miles) stretch of motorway forms the start of the M74/A74 route from Glasgow to Carlisle. It was constructed in stages and the Hamilton by-pass was one of the early motorways to be built in Scotland.

On the Hamilton By-Pass Stage II a serious problem developed associated with the Earthworks and Bulk filling. There was one large embankment over very bad ground and the filling was specified as being Red Shale. The muckshifting sub-contractor was Dick Hampton who bought a local Colliery Shale Bing in Bothwell, about 1 mile from the site. This wasn't well burnt shale, probably due to the tip being doused during the war. This was not accepted and he was forced to buy Red Spent Shale from the West Lothian area. This is a processed material and very good but was at least 25 miles from the M74 and the financial impact eventually forced Dick Hampton to sell out to Cementation.

Further sections of M74 extending to Millbank (junction 12) were added in the late 1980s.

Upgrading and extension works in the 1990s

The M74/A74 is one of the most important trunk routes in Scotland and the remainder of the A74 was dual carriageway to the English border. There was pressure for such an important route to be converted to full motorway standards throughout its length. Apart from the upgrading to motorway standard of the section south of Draffan the SDD in their report on roads in Scotland in 1980 said "on other sections of this road south to the Border there is continuing improvement of the dual carriageway with the addition of 1 metre hard strips and the installation in appropriate places of central reservation barriers".

Nevertheless the conversion to full motorway proceded, and in 1995, as the final contracts for the first 62km of the 90km of M74 between Douglas and the border were being constructed, it became clear that the continuation of this work using conventional construction contracts (even the more efficient design and build terms) could not be afforded on constrained budgets without compromising other urgent work. Rather than let the pace of work slow down, Ministers were persuaded to take forward the remaining 30km as a single Design, Build, Finance and Operate project. The Highways Agency were also persuaded to let the Scottish Executive act as Agents for the remaining motorway gap in Cumbria and to tender that as an option within the Scottish contract. Scott Wilson were given the job to co-ordinate the plethora of engineering and environmental consultancies to produce a comprehensive scheme from Paddy's Rickle Bridge in the north, running over the difficult terrain of Beattock Summit, past Moffat and Beattock to Cleuchbrae. Services of the Babtie Group were novated to the Scottish Executive to work on the English section. West Merchant Bank were brought in under the terms of their "Fastlink" contract to provide commercial advice and Ron Weeks of the Percy Thomas Partnership was appointed to give architectural advice and sort out the difficult aesthetic treatment as the new road crossed the Beattock Summit, which had exasperated the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland. The Scottish DBFO contract documents were issued to 4 bidders in December 1995. The initial strategy sought fully financed tenders in July 1996, but the bidders, Autolink, Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction), Balfour Beatty and AMEC were unhappy with this in the immature PFI market and agreed with the Scottish Office that the initial bids would be subject to finance. Two bidders, Autolink and Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction), were taken through the negotiation phase and provided firm bids to allow a provisional contract to be signed with Autolink in December 1996.

Although bound at that stage by a Tender Bond to deliver the project, Autolink were still exploring the best financial option within a developing market. Their chosen approach involved raising Bond finance, guaranteed by Monoline Insurers to provide an investment grade instrument. The contract was executed within the pre-determined timetable, but only after the outstanding details were concluded over a 52 hour continuous session.

As a precaution against the risk of political disruption, the execution of the contract, which took place in April shortly before the General Election, was cleared by the Shadow Scottish Spokesman, George Robertson. The contract, recognising the importance of good pre-planning, required the contractor to start construction works only 90 days after the award. Autolink's approach to the contract was a revolution to traditional Scottish road building. The logistics were paramount, including re-designing 2 sections of the road for which the Scottish Office procured variations to the statutory orders. Over a 2 year period, the road experienced the most intense concentration of civil engineering resources seen in Scotland. In less than 2 years the new road was open to traffic. The contract had delivered the Scottish section and, as recognised in the subsequent NAO Report, had delivered value for money against conventional procurement when tested with both the 8% discount rate under which the competition was run, and the 6% rate subsequently advised by Treasury.

The English option was not taken up. The Scottish Executive had fast-tracked the publication of draft orders and had persuaded the Reporter at Public Inquiry that the road should go ahead. The Secretaries of State for Transport and Environment decided that the orders should be made but continuing financial pressures caused the Highways Agency and English Ministers to sacrifice this scheme. The contractor's price was keen and, again, provided value for money against conventional procurement. Finally, the English Strategic Road Review decided that the option should not be exercised and that a lower cost option to upgrade the motorway would be considered. Last minute negotiations between Autolink and Kevin Lasbury, the Highways Agency Director for the north west, failed to secure a reprieve.

The problems with the English road have not gone away and drivers travelling to Scotland and the Northern Ireland ferry ports at Stranraer can experience gridlock at peak times as they encounter the 2 lane dual carriageway between the 3 lane motorways to the south and north. The English section contained some clearly expensive features, including new bridges over the West Coast main railway line at Mossband and the mouth of the River Esk at the Solway Firth, but abandonment was not an option. Bridge inspections failed to give the Mossband Viaduct an indefinite clean bill of health and nobody wanted to take responsibility for the main Scotland-England road link collapsing on top of the main Scotland-England rail link! The Highways Agency have recently held an exhibition with their revised proposals for an infill section of dual-3 motorway and are moving their preparation quickly towards construction.

Contract details

 
M'way
Section
Engineer
Contractor
M74
Maryville to West of Fullerton Road
SRC
Lilley/Keir
M74
Larkhall to Hamilton Sec'n 1
Christiani Shand
M74
Section 2 to Hamilton
Christiani Shand
M74
Hamilton to Uddingston Bypass
M74
Draffan to Wellburn
SRC
Monk
M74
Wellburn to Poniel
SRC
Norwest Holst
M74
Poneil to Millbank
SRC
Whatlings/McAlpine
M74
Millbank to Nether Abington
Carl Bro
M74
Nether Abington to Elvanfoot
Carl Bro
Christiani/Morrison j.v.
A74(M)
Elvanfoot to Paddy’s Rickle
W A Fairhurst
Nuttall/Levack j.v.
A74(M)
Paddy’s Rickle to Harthope
W A Fairhurst
Autolink (M6)
A74(M)
Harthope to Middlegill
W A Fairhurst
Autolink (M6)
A74(M)
Middlegill to Beattock
W A Fairhurst
Autolink (M6)
A74(M)
Beattock to St Ann’s
SWK
Autolink (M6)
A74(M)
St Ann’s to Dinwoodie Green
SWK
Barr
A74(M)
Dinwoodie Green to Muirhouse
SWK
A74(M)
Muirhouse to Water of Milk
SWK
Miller Civil Eng'ng
A74(M)
Water of Milk to Ecclefechan
SWK
A74(M)
Ecclefechan
Miller Civil Eng'ng
A74(M)
Ecclefechan to Eaglesfield
Morrison
A74(M)
Eaglesfield to Kirkpatrick Fleming
Castelli Girola UK/Morrison
A74(M)
Kirkpatrick Fleming to Gretna
Shanks & McEwan