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Chapter 13. The human experience of environmental improvement on the M6

Volume 1 Part 4
Brief résumé of Chapter 13:
Human experience of Environmental Improvement on the M6

Howard Stevens BSc, MS, CEng, FICE, FIHT, MASCE
formerly Managing Director, Alfred McAlpine Construction, South Region

Howard Stevens illustrates from his long and wide professional and managerial experience, which runs up to the completion of Yorkshire Links project in the late 1990s, what a contractor encounters in the human maelstrom of any substantial civil engineering undertaking. It reveals the fact that people's contributions and their manner of making them, regardless of role or rank, characterise the form of the individual task every bit as much as the formal content of the task itself. This chapter captures those contributions in his account of the character of one of the contracts which Alfred McAlpine won for work on the M6 after 1961, beginning with the Warrington to Preston section, soon to be followed by the Preston to Lancaster section and the Shareshill to Darlaston section. Subsequent work on the M6 undertaken by Alfred McAlpine included the Coleshill Section finished in 1971 which formed one of the final parts of the Midland Links project. Another contract of very different character, also described for the Motorway Archive by Howard Stevens, was constructing the Penrith By-pass in 1966-68.

This account of the Shareshill to Darlaston contract completed between 1964 and 1966 at a cost of £4.87 million complements Robert Buchan's account of its setting out for Sir Owen Williams and Partners. Chapters 8 and 11 together show aspects of the processes of constructing a motorway which, amongst other things, served towards sparking the long term regeneration of one the Black Country's more depressed communities.

How differently the same work may appear from the different viewpoints would be highlighted by reading this chapter alongside the account published as The Midland Links Motorways by Sir Owen Williams and Partners, Castle Bromwich, 1972 and later reprinted by Trevor Hobbs, London, 1976. That contrast would also usefully extend to many other Motorway Archive papers deposited, like this one, at the Northamptonshire Record Office which describe the work of the Eastern and the Midland Regions' RCUs. All the formal Departmental files on this stretch of motorway together with many comparable, if less excitingly described contracts, and associated economic appraisals are preserved and available at the Public Record Office, Kew in the MT 95, MT117 and in the MT121, MT123 and MT138 and MT148 series. Volume III presents their stories in Executive Summaries.