Construction And Environmental Challenges In Wales

17 April 2012

Costain is pushing ahead with preparatory work on its contract to improve the A465 Heads of the Valleys road in South Wales.

Working on an Early Contractor Involvement basis, outline design of the 8km stretch of road is underway, with draft orders planned for publication next February. A public enquiry is likely to be required late summer 2013. If all goes according to plan, Costain will commence work on site  in February 2014 for the 2.5-year construction programme. Halcrow, Atkins and RPS are developing the scheme design for Costain.

“We’re in there to make sure it’s a buildable design that gives good value to the customer,” says Project Director, Barry Woodman.

As its name suggests, the route links the northern ends of several valleys. The aim is to widen and improve transport links and aid regeneration of the area, which is an unemployment blackspot. The route has been split into six sections, with several contractors working on individual sections.

Costain is responsible for Section 2, which climbs up from from Gilwern, near Abergavenny, to Brynmawr.

This section is one of the most challenging parts of the whole A465 road programme, says Barry. From the technical viewpoint the route has to be widened where it passes through a challenging mountain gorge, which will make careful traffic management crucial. Particularly significant on this scheme, however, is the array of environmental issues that the team has to handle.

One of Europe’s biggest populations of lesser horseshoe bats, Wales’s only substantial tract of ancient beechwood and one of Europe’s largest limestone cave systems all have to be sensitively accommodated within or adjacent to the scheme. Protected geological features and several industrial heritage sites, such as the Clydach Iron Works, also have to be taken into consideration along the route.