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Delivering complex infrastructure programmes – the A19 story

Delivering complex infrastructure programmes – the A19 story

More than 80,000 vehicles flow around the junction each day travelling between the UK’s largest car manufacturing plant Nissan and the Port of Tyne.

As part of Highways England’s £130 million upgrade to the busy junction, the 142-metre and 1,393-tonne bridge which raises the A19 above the existing roundabout, will allow drivers to drive straight through without stopping. One of the largest and most iconic highways projects in the North east, the new flyover opened for traffic on 21 June with an official ceremony on 6 July 2021.

Delivered by Costain for Highways England, the two-year scheme which began in 2019, will support economic growth, provide a safe and serviceable road network, provide a more free-flowing road network, improve the environment, and provide an accessible and integrated road network.

The nearby A19 Downhill Lane scheme running in parallel provides extra capacity on the junction between the A19 and the A1290 in Sunderland, supporting regional economy and plans for the development of International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), located in an area north of Sunderland’s Nissan Motor Manufacturing plant and major international supply chain companies , adjacent to the A19. New link roads will be created between Downhill Lane and Testo’s, boosting journey times and providing new facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.

Before undertaking the major upgrade of the A19 Testo’s Junction, drivers experienced severe congestion at the roundabout during peak times. This resulted in longer than usual journey times for road users. Now, drivers experience more predictable and reliable journeys and improved road safety with less traffic around the junction.


Empowering people

Russell Furnival, project lead for the A19 had a clear strategy from the outset. Intelligent planning, identifying key milestones early and making them visible and visual for all was a constant in his planning meetings. Supported by the empowerment of this project team, who were able to make decisions and take ownership played a huge part in the successful delivery.

Digital tools supported the efficient delivery, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, explains Russell, “The early adoption and continued use of Aphex, a cloud-based planning tool to track, update and communicate the programme in real time and from anywhere in the UK was key. It allowed us to work remotely and maintain social distancing at a critical time for the project but for the wellbeing and safety of our people.”

Robust forecasting helped Russell establish a drumbeat that facilitated an accurate forecast with a focus on the financial planning and work scheduling. A team of package managers ensured that every subcontract element was managed effectively.

To keep the team on track and focussed on delivery, Russell believes managing and minimising change is a vital part of successful project delivery.

“Focussing our attention on delivering as effectively and efficiently as we could helped to manage our time more effectively. Time is an expensive commodity and change adds cost, and not necessarily value. Robust planning and delivery were essential, with construction phasing agreed at a very early stage and the team stuck to the plan!”

Russell Furnival, project lead at Costain

High performing and integrated team

One of the early successes of Testo’s was establishing all the haul roads at the earliest opportunity. During a dry April in 2019, the integrated team of Costain, Highways England, Jacobs and the wider supply chain worked together to deliver the temporary haul roads and laydown areas.

The collaborative working towards a common goal, minimising risk keeping down cost, allowed permanent works to go ahead on schedule and continued relatively unaffected throughout a wet summer and into the winter months.

Another key milestone was the first major traffic switch – moving the traffic onto the newly constructed A19 to get access to the centre of the junction to start building the flyover.

Russell explained, “This was a key focus from the outset and the milestone needed to be hit to maintain the critical delivery path. The main learning here was planning and sticking to it, plan to execute then execute the plan.” The traffic switch was successfully achieved on schedule in December 2019.

Community support

Complex infrastructure projects can disrupt. Local communities are affected when and construction starts. The Costain team is passionate about making a difference to the communities in which it works by minimising impact in a variety of ways. Together with Highways England and Jacobs, Costain delivered a host of social value and community enhancement projects in the Northeast.

One of the first was a volunteering day at outdoor education centre, West Boldon Lodge. A 40 strong team helped build footpaths, move a piano to an outdoor music area, built a treetop parachute canopy and complete the roof on a ‘Hobbit’ house.

Costain has collaborated with more than 20 schools, leading assemblies, offering numerous activities, and delivering careers talks. At the North East’s “Bring it On” careers event, Costain engaged with over 2,000 children and young people about the world of complex infrastructure programmes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown the team continued working with schools and charities, supporting pop-up foodbanks in Jarrow and Boldon Colliery. Toys were donated to the NSPCC recovery centre in Newcastle. The lockdown period gave time to engage virtually with more than 600 people at Newcastle, Northumbria, and Teesside universities.

Multi award winning project

  • National Award from the Considerate Constructors Scheme
  • Winners of the CECA Award for Health and Safety
  • Finalists for the Construction News Awards, for Health and Safety
  • Finalists for the British Construction Industry Awards, for Community Engagement
  • Finalists for the Highways Awards, for Highways Partnership Award

Did you know?

  • All steel used for the beams was locally sourced from Cleveland Bridge of Darlington
  • Re-used material from the A1058 Coast Road saved 1250tCO2e
  • 60% of the project team lived in the local area
  • More than one million people hours worked
  • £1.5m+ saved by reusing earth in the landscape and avoiding off-site disposal
  • 500,000 cubic metres of earth was moved, the equivalent of 172 Olympic swimming pools full
  • 27,060 new plants native to the area
  • 4,242 precast concrete planks used