By 2019, Regent Street flyover, which was built in the 1960s, had reached the end of its life and needed replacing. However, with 40,000 vehicles crossing over it and 30,000 travelling beneath it every day, closing the entire junction would have caused widespread disruption, congestion and pollution from gridlocked traffic.
WSP and Balfour Beatty devised an intricately planned solution that would enable us to demolish and replace half the bridge at a time, keeping traffic moving around the works. With the complex logistics having to be planned to the millimetre, a 3D cloud survey and 4D design enabled us to piece together the jigsaw puzzle and communicate the programme clearly to stakeholders, which ranged from large organisations such as nearby retailers and local media to local community groups.
Getting out of the ground is one of the most challenging parts on any project, and reusing the existing piles not only streamlined the programme but also saved concrete and reduced waste to landfill. Other materials were reused or recycled wherever possible. In total, by October 2020 the project as a whole had diverted over 7,000 tonnes of waste from landfill.
Procuring the project through the Scape Framework enabled early contractor involvement, which meant that the project team came together in June 2019, three months before advance works began. Together with Leeds City Council, we all worked as one team – fostering trust and transparency by sharing information and resources – in a Covid-secure co-located environment.
As well as planning every last detail of the construction programme, the team adopted modern methods of construction to do as much off site as possible. Approaches such as bringing in sections of the bridge with temporary works and deck elements already in place have helped keep the project on track despite the unforeseen circumstances of the Covid pandemic.
To minimise any disruption to people’s journeys, the project team worked with the council’s communication team to let drivers , pedestrians, cyclists, residents and businesses know what was going on and encourage them to plan their journeys in advance. Social media posts, targeted adverts and variable sign message boards provided up-to-date information about the works and changes to road layout. The Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People helped the team make sign language videos for project updates and road closures.
The £31 million project, which has a design life of 120 years, is part of the council’s wider programme of work that aims to reduce through traffic within the city centre. The new layout underneath the flyover will improve walking and cycling facilities, and will tie into the new cycle route as part of the Mabgate area regeneration.
The Scape Framework provides speed, confidence and certainty for Leeds City Council and emphasises creating value for the wider community. In fact, the project is predicted to add social value of £8 million by the time it’s completed.
Up until the end of October 2020, the team had already realised a total of £2.3 million in added social value. Local businesses supply the project, and it employs local people. Project team members volunteer with local organisations and raise money for local charities, including – for one event – by walking through fire to raise nearly £1,500 for the Lord Mayor’s chosen charity: Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds.
The project team also worked with Leeds-based artist Emma Hardaker and local students from alternative education provider MAP Charity and Leeds City College to design new banners for the fencing that surrounds the site, improving its appearance and informing people about the project. The students learnt about place-making and how design can be used as a tool to improve the way we interact with the built environment. Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People informed the final designs by recommending compositions and colour palettes that could be more easily seen by visually impaired people.
The project is on track for completion in spring 2022 and when it’s finished it will have played – and will continue to play – an important role in helping Leeds foster inclusive growth, improve health and wellbeing, and tackle emissions and pollution.