Rising to the challenge

Playing a key part of the supply chain for a huge road project in England, Nynas delivered more than 20,000 tons of bitumen in time-critical batches, helping to complete the work well ahead of schedule.

Challenge The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement Scheme required a heavy duty pavement whilst also providing a low noise surface.Opening in the spring of 2020 rather than as originally planned at the end of this year the Highways England £1.5 billion A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme has been dubbed Britain’s biggest road project. Hailed a great success by the government-owned Highways England, it provides an improved link between the busy regions in the Midlands and the East of England.

“The project has relied on the flexibility and coordination of all parties involved,” comments Robyn Howat, manager of the on-site asphalt plant set up and run by UK-based Aggregate Industries.

Solution Conventional penetration grade bitumen was used for the 32 mm base layer and the 20 mm binder layer. Polymer modified bitumen (PMB), Nypol 77 and a very small amount of Nynas Endura Z2, was used for the super-thin top layer.Supplying the asphalt plant with bitumen proved challenging for Nynas. The sheer scale of the project and its location in a particularly busy part of the country meant that plans often had to be drawn up on a daily basis, making forward planning difficult, if not impossible.

“In order for everything to run smoothly and to coordinate the work, we had daily planning meetings, where we would decide on for instance what deliveries were needed the next day. However, thanks to the flexibility of everyone involved work progressed better than expected,” says Robyn Howat.

“It has been a challenging job, but by working collaboratively with site staff we were able to overcome many of the problems, rise to the challenge, and play our part in making it a success,” says Chris Rhodes, Bitumen Sales Manager for Nynas in the UK.

Result A durable yet low-noise road surface fit for heavy traffic in a built-up area.Nynas had to deliver to tight schedules, not only the right amounts but also the correct grades of bitumen to keep pace with the road building.

The ambitious 21 mile road improvement scheme, delivered for Highways England by the A14 Integrated Delivery Team — a joint venture involving contractors Balfour Beatty, Costain and Skanska, and design consultants Atkins and Jacobs (formally CH2M) — included a major new by-pass and significant trunk road widening. The scheme will provide improvement to a strategic link between two key motorways carrying traffic from the industrial Midlands region to roads leading to the UK’s busiest container port at Felixstowe in East Anglia. 

Carrying around 85,000 vehicles per day, including a large portion of heavy goods vehicles, the A14 trunk road required a durable, heavy duty structure. However, as the area is also densely populated with residential dwellings in close proximity to the busy road network, new roads also had to be fitted with a low-noise surface layer.

“On a base of sand and two layers of CBGM, we laid a 32 mm asphalt base and then a 20 mm binder layer before the final super thin low-noise surface layer,” explains Robyn Howat.


Site supervisor Ian Grimmer, left, and Robyn Howat, Plant Manager, in front of the asphalt plant that was built exclusively to supply Britain’s biggest road project.

The company's biggest undertaking to date, the road project has seen Aggregate Industries supply more than one million tonnes of aggregates.

“It’s been an exciting project that has highlighted the importance of having very good and direct communication lines with both contractors and suppliers,” says Robyn Howat.

The delivery of more than 20,000 tons of both penetration grade and polymer modified bitumen required Nynas to meet strict operational and environmental standards. For instance, all deliveries had to be carried out by vehicles and hauliers accredited by the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), aimed at managing work related road risk and reducing the environmental impact. Nynas was the only supplier committed to and achieving FORS silver status.

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