Welcome to your Lancashire

History of the A627(m)

Motorway History A627(M), Lancashire

M627(M)

W M Johnson MBE BEng CEng FICE FIHT

CONTENTS

A personal prologue

Foreword

Background

Financial and procedural matters

The route location

The Contract

Earth and water

James Drake and delegation

Drainage

Bridges

Road Surfacing

Liaison with local authorities and service bodies

Landscaping

Financial effect of extra work

Contractors claims

The opening

Cover illustration, From Cripplegate Lane footbridge looking towards Rochdale in 1999.


A personal prologue

In 1967, the Farnworth-Kearsley By Pass opened without ceremony. As Resident Engineer (RE), I spent a few weeks on site clearing up various administrative issues before briefly standing-in for two of my colleagues on two South Lancashire contracts while they went on leave. I then was posted to a design office at Prospect Hill, near Preston, to take charge of a small team which had been working on the road design of the Eccles By Pass Motorway. I was there as Resident Engineer designate; it was felt that, as Farnworth-Kearsley had been an urban scheme with a large element of liaison with other local authorities, I was a suitable candidate for the job. It wasnt often, in those busy days, that an RE had the luxury of a spell looking at the design process on a job for which he would eventually have site responsibility. The design was at an advanced stage and seemed sound, however, it was quickly apparent that the estimate then current was much too low. This was particularly important in view of the urban nature of the scheme with the probability of extra, unforeseen work. I well remember having to tell my boss, the legendary James Drake, that he would have to accommodate an increase of over 1million. As always, he took major problems well, usually, but not in this case, after an initial explosion. I got the feeling that he half expected something of this nature. Wisely he decided to announce a smaller increase deciding that a further similar increase could probably be tolerated when tenders were received.

In those days it was customary for there to be each year an exhibition in different parts of the County publicising the work of the Council. In 1970, the exhibition was held in Walkden, near Manchester, and, one fine Saturday morning, I was on duty at the display organised by the County Surveyors Department. Visiting the exhibition with his Committee Chairman, Mr Drake took me for a walk in the small garden. He started to talk about the Eccles By Pass contract. You know that its an urban job but it also has a large bridgeworks content, he said. I dont often get the chance to appoint bridges people as RE, theyre usually deputies, but in this case, there would be a good reason. Getting to the nub of the argument he asked me if I would agree to relinquish Eccles By Pass for another job. He promised me another big job and said I would not suffer by agreeing. I said yes. I sometimes idly wonder what would have happened if my answer had been in the negative.

It is, perhaps, slightly ironic that, having ensured that, whatever other worries the RE at Eccles would have, finance was not going to be a problem, I soon inherited a job in which underestimating, in the early stages at least, presented considerable difficulties.


A627(M) ROCHDALE-OLDHAM MOTORWAY

Foreword

An authority named Lancashire County Council (LCC) has existed for over 100 years. In the last 25 years, however, there have been two major changes creating, in fact or effect, new authorities. The original authority included the area from the Manchester Ship Canal in the south to the southern Lake District in the north and the Pennines in the east but excluded the major conurbations, classified as County Boroughs. In 1974, the southern part of the County was divided between Cheshire and the newly formed Metropolitan Counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside; the part north of Morecambe Bay went into the newly formed County of Cumbria. At the same time, County Boroughs were dissolved and their areas were incorporated into the new Counties. In another government-promoted reorganisation in 1998, the Districts of Blackburn and Blackpool were given unitary status.

I was involved in A627(M) motorway, known as Rochdale-Oldham to the cognoscenti, as Resident Engineer (RE) and very few of my former colleagues in the old LCC who have any knowledge of the scheme are, for one reason or another, now available. Until two weeks before the start of construction, I had only known the road as a proposed line on the map and so, for information about events before early 1970, I have had to resort to the opening brochure and to material in records offices. The latter takes the form of minutes of the Lancashire County Councils Highways and Bridges Committee and some very random files, transferred from LCC to the Greater Manchester County Council (GMC) on the latters formation in 1974. I well remember helping to sort files in the LCC offices before bundling and carting to the then new GMC. I suspect that my visit to their present home was the first time since then that they have seen the light of day. There may well be more files hidden under inappropriate references and I may try to dig further one day. The description of events following the start of construction (from The Route Location on page 9 onwards) is largely based on personal recollection and is almost bound to be, therefore, biased and partial though, I believe, reasonably accurate.

The photographs were taken by the author in 1998 and 1999 and are intended to show how the road has bedded-in since construction. The opening brochure contains pictures during construction and shortly after completion.

I would like to express my appreciation of the staffs of the Lancashire County Records Office and of the Greater Manchester County Records Office for their unfailing help and courtesy.

Background

The A627(M) was built as a principal road motorway linking the towns of Rochdale and Oldham with the M62 Trans-Pennine motorway and with each other. Most motorways are trunk roads and thus the responsibility of a government department[1] as highway authority. A principal road motorway had a local authority as highway authority and normally attracted a partial government grant but the length of the A627(M) between the M62 and Broadway in Chadderton was eventually seen as a potential trunk road and was funded in total by the government; the government funding did not affect the ownership of the road which remained with the local highway authority until the entire motorway was trunked in about 1988.

At the time of construction, 1970-72, and until the reorganisation of local government in 1974, both Rochdale and Oldham were County Boroughs (CBs). In highway terms they were totally independent of the Lancashire County Council (LCC) which was the highway authority for all public (adopted) roads other than unclassified urban roads and other than trunk roads within the county but outside the county boroughs.

In December 1958, the then Minister of Transport floated the idea of assessing and planning for the long-term highway requirements of major conurbations outside London. The Minister suggested that working parties of Surveyors (Engineers) to County Councils and County Borough Councils should investigate and formulate proposals. This led to a consortium of local authorities with a common interest in the sub-region known as the S.E.L.N.E.C. (South East Lancashire North East Cheshire) area. It included the pre-1974 Counties of Lancashire and Cheshire together with the County Boroughs in the area such as Manchester, Salford, Rochdale and Oldham. Though the S.E.L.N.E.C. area was, in some ways, a prototype for the Greater Manchester County, which came into being in 1974, there were substantial differences. Wigan and its environs, for example, though in Greater Manchester, were not included in the S.E.L.N.E.C. area.

The extent of the two shire counties involvement in the S.E.L.N.E.C. area may surprise those unfamiliar with local government before the 1974 reorganisation but an example from my own experience may help. As the last Divisional Surveyor of Lancashires Division 6, which covered part of the area, I had under my wing no fewer than 23 local authorities later incorporated into Greater Manchester varying in size from very small Urban Districts such as Wardle to large Municipal Boroughs like Stretford and Middleton.

Though the need for links to the county boroughs of Rochdale and Oldham from the motorway system had been envisaged in the Lancashire County Councils 1949 Road Plan for Lancashire[2], it was the Borough Engineer of Rochdale in 1961 who suggested an entirely new road from Rochdale to Oldham linking each CB with the M62. This was reported to the County Councils Highways and Bridges Committee on 14th February 1962 when it was suggested that the road was Route 242 in the County Road Plan. Whilst not exactly untrue, the new proposal did not conform in type or location to Route 242 as described in the Road Plan. The Committee agreed to consult Middleton Borough and Chadderton Urban District Councils, authorities within the administrative County affected by the proposal, and both welcomed the idea, albeit with a small reservation in the case of Middleton concerning access to an industrial estate.

In late 1962, a committee of the S.E.L.N.E.C. area, variously described as the Technical Committee and the Highways Engineering Committee, comprising Surveyors (engineers) of County and County Borough Councils within the S.E.L.N.E.C. area, completed the first stage of their study of the highway needs of the conurbation. Their report was published on 19th December 1962. Lancashires Highways and Bridges Committee put the report to all 24 local authorities in the part of Lancashire covered by the S.E.L.N.E.C. area and it was reported to the Committee early in 1963 that all were either not opposed to the proposals or were positively in favour. This report made the Rochdale-Oldham Route a firm proposal to be incorporated in a future County programme.

It was agreed that the Lancashire County Council would design and supervise the construction of the road on behalf of all three highway authorities involved[3]. In the case of Oldham, there was very little work within that Boroughmerely the run-in at the Oldham end of the Burnley Lane diversion which included half a subway.

The road was funded from four sources. Principal Roads normally attracted 75% government grant as did a major part of the Rochdale-Oldham motorway but, eventually, grant to the level of 100% of the cost of the stretch of motorway between the M62 and the junction with Broadway in Chadderton was forthcoming. The remainder of the cost was divided between Lancashire County Council and the County Boroughs of Rochdale and Oldham. Before taking grant into account, the proportion of the cost to each local authority was approximately Lancashire CC-66%, Rochdale CB-32% and Oldham CB-2%. The distribution of cost was based on the actual measured work done in each area. Letters of agreement were exchanged between LCC and Rochdale and between LCC and Oldham. It says much for the trust engendered that letters between officers were held to be adequate for quite complex agreements.

Before construction started, the identity of the road does not seem to have been an easy matter to decide. It was variously referred to in the minutes of the County Councils Highways and Bridges Committee as the Manchester Outer Ring Road (Northern Section), the proposed Rochdale-Lancashire-Yorkshire Motorway-Oldham Route (perhaps with an excessive number of rather misleading hyphens), the Oldham/Rochdale Route (Broadway Extension), Oldham-Rochdale Route-Broadway Extension-Route 242, Rochdale-Lancashire/Yorkshire(-)Oldham Route-S.E.L.N.E.C. Route No 205 and, in at least one report, the Broadway Extension in Rochdale! Road names do seem to have been a problemeither that or they werent taken very seriously. I suspect the former because only someone with no sense of humour, or with a seriously warped one, would have dared to refer to what eventually became the M62, Lancashire-Yorkshire Motorway, as the Yorkshire Branch Road.

Financial and procedural matters

In 1965, the County Councils[4] Highways and Bridges Committee were informed that the road was included in the 1969/70 programme at a rough estimated cost of 4,180,000 though it is not clear what length of road this covered.

The scheme was included in the S.E.L.N.E.C. Area Principal Road Programme in April 1966 and the centre line was confirmed in November 1968.

By April 1966, the Highways and Bridges Committee were informed that the estimate had risen to 4,229,000 of which 3,171,000 was the anticipated grant. Again the coverage is not spelled out though it seems fairly certain that it did not include work in either of the County Boroughs because, at the same meeting, a request was received from Rochdale for the County Surveyor to design the road within that County Borough. This, the Committee agreed in principle to do. They confirmed their agreement at a meeting on 8th November 1967 and, for the first time in their minutes, the proposed road was referred to as a Special Road, a legal category of highway which includes motorways. Formal confirmation of a similar agreement in the case of Oldham was not felt necessary before July 1969, just 8 months before construction started. There was no Special Road within Oldham CB. Rochdale and Oldham each agreed to pay LCC the cost of the works within each boroughincluding, in the case of Oldham, half the cost of the Boundary Park Subway. They also agreed to pay to Lancashire 4% of the gross cost of the works in their areas to cover design and supervision.

Unlike many other contemporary roads constructed by the County Council, there were few advanced works. Land purchase, a soil survey and, arguably, some test piles are common to most jobs but apart from permission to service undertakers to order materials on long delivery, an order to a steelwork manufacturer to commence the rolling of high yield steel required for Thornham Lane Bridge and commitments to the British Railways Board there was little on this scheme. Indeed, it is hard to see how the scheme could have been progressed any faster with such a tight time scale. From conception in 1961 and the first Committee mention in 1962 to completion 10 years later is a remarkable achievement. There was some delay in getting grant approval from the government, a thing that often seems to happen when national finances, or lack of them, dictate the pace. Despite their best, or worst, efforts, Whitehall could not prolong things to the sort of schedule usually applying on government, as opposed to county contracts.

In February 1968, the Committee started the procedure of making a Scheme under Section 11 of the Highways Act 1959 jointly with Rochdale. Section 11 creates a Special Road and details the lengths of road to which the Special Road powers apply. In this case it also included powers for the County Council to exercise all the highway functions of the (Rochdale) Corporation in respect of a Special Road. The terms Motorway and Special Road are not, in fact, synonymous but all motorways are Special Roads, which are roads legally restricted in the types of usage. In the case of a motorway the road is for use by certain classes of motor vehicles and not by learner drivers, pedestrians, cyclists or horses for example. A certain urgency was stressed by the statement that it was essential that construction is commenced in early 1969 in order to meet the expected completion of M62 in autumn 1970. The Minister of Transport confirmed the Section 11 Scheme in January 1969. A draft Side Road Order was initiated in April 1968.

On 10 July 1968, the Committee received details of objections to a draft Compulsory Purchase Order which had been published covering all the land and property required for the scheme. In fact there were only four objections; for a fairly complex scheme. This small number was typical of County Council schemes and reflected the amount of preliminary contact which Lancashire practised. One, from a farmer, was completely valid but, regrettably, there didnt appear to be any way of mitigating the severe effects. Another farmer, who was only marginally affected by the route but who had been more affected by the M62, seemed to have been understandably soured by his prior experience and had obviously decided to object to everything on principle. One, from a frontager, had arguable validity but the fourth was rather eccentric. The Committee, in this latter case, received a letter from a person, allegedly written on behalf of a pensioner who did not, himself, object. The letter stated, I do object to the road, I see no use for it, if you think we can live on roads and petrol fumes and old cars you dont think like I do. We want food and somewhere to grow it. His arguments were 20 years ahead of their time but were, perhaps, motivated by a certain self-interest: his own allotment was affected.

In March 1969, it was realised that the Compulsory Purchase Order did not include land in the County Borough of Oldham. Apparently it had been expected that Oldham would look after land purchase in their own area but this was not the case. The Committee were informed that none of the 20 people affected had objected but, as a safeguard, a new Order was made to give them the legal opportunity. The problems of compulsory purchase, or rather its implementation, were not yet over. In June, the Ministry wrote to say that, because of a technicality, they couldnt confirm the Order and a redraft was required.

In April 1969, the County Council had adopted a selective tendering scheme. Firms were selected by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Highways and Bridges Committee to be placed on a list of potential tenderers in various price bands. At the time tenders were invited for the Rochdale Oldham Motorway, there were nine firms on the list for large contracts and five or six of them, again selected by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, were invited to tender.

James Drake, the County Surveyor and Bridgemaster, who had been on secondment to the North Western Road Construction Unit of the Ministry of Transport, returned to the County in December 1968 and clearly had been stirring things up. Pressure had been put on the Ministry to make the Rochdale-Oldham Motorway and other routes trunk roads and, thus, to take total financial responsibility. Not unreasonably, the response was that, to trunk the roads at this stage would cause unnecessary delay but they intimated that they would consider an application for 100% grant for the section of motorway south of the M62.[5]

The application for grant, made in June 1969, quoted a current total cost estimate of 6,398,000 of which 4,391,000 was in the county area. Approximately 3,665,000 of this latter amount was believed to be reimbursable. In January 1970, the estimate of total cost submitted for grant was increased to 7,183,000, a 12% increase on the previous submission. However, in the following month, there was a revised total estimate of 6,755,516, a lower increase of 6% on the original figure. This reduction was probably a consequence of the acceptance at the same meeting of the successful tender for a sum rather less than expected.

Work started on site on 16th March 1970 and the number of reports to Committee decreased. Apart from routine reports relating to land purchase, disturbance allowance and tenants compensation, there was no mention of the contract until December 1970 when it was reported that the Department of the Environment had agreed to the installation of emergency telephones at a cost of 11,000.

In April 1971, the Committee endorsed the action of the Chairman and Vice-Chairman in seeking the advice of an Engineering Geologist and authorised the County Surveyor to negotiate a fee with Professor E Morton. This was a result of the manifestation of the Slattocks Gusher which will be discussed later. The report to the Highways and Bridges Committee was politically wise, as the consequences of this phenomenon could have been very serious, financially and otherwise. The financial consequence of this eruption,and of other problems encountered in the course of the contract, is quantified on page 18.

Apart from a report on the agreement with Rochdale County Borough that the County Council should be reimbursed for the cost of maintaining the road and acting as Special Road Authority within the Borough, there was only one further report of note before the Committee, and the County Council, ceased to exist as a consequence of the 1974 reorganisation of local government. This was in January 1971 when the Committee resolved that the revised estimate of 7,121,375 for the construction of the road be approved. The fact that this estimate, which took into account all the constructional problems described later, only represented an increase of 365,859 on the previously approved figure and was still below the pre-tender estimate is, I believe, a tribute to all those involved and to the co-operative spirit which prevailed throughout. Even a later increase of estimated cost to 7,478,540 in December 1973, 23 months after the road opened to traffic, does not, in my view, change this assessment.

It may be of interest, at this stage, to give some comparative costs, at estimate stage, of M62 and A627(M). The M62 from A580 to Yorkshire, a length of 18 miles of dual three lane motorway including part of the spaghetti junction of M62/A580/M61, was estimated to cost 30,781,000, representing 1,766,000 per mile. This includes the 13.2 mile length from Whitefield to the Yorkshire boundary which was estimated at 17,589,826 working out at 1,330,000 per mile. The Rochdale-Oldham two lane dual carriageway motorway was 3.72 miles long with 4.7 miles of all purpose road; the estimated cost of 5,286,650 produced a cost per mile of motorway of 1,420,000 and per mile of road of 1,120,000.

The route location

From A663 Broadway in Chadderton, the motorway heads north, under a roundabout with links to the local road system including an all-purpose dual carriageway link into Oldham. Descending into a valley, it then climbs to a summit near Slattocks before a short descent to the M62 interchange at Thornham. This interchange incorporates provision for a future fly-over. At Slattocks, a motorway link to the A664 in Middleton is provided. Beyond the M62 after a short climb, the motorway descends to a terminal roundabout with all-purpose links from it to the A664 and to the A58 at Sudden, Rochdale. In all about 4 miles of motorway and 2 miles of new dual carriageway all-purpose road were constructed. There were 8 road underbridges, 5 overbridges, 3 pedestrian subways, one footbridge, extensive retaining walls and a rail overbridge designed and constructed by the railway authority.

The Contract

The contract was let in the sum of 5,879,441 1s 8d to a consortium of Sir Alfred McAlpine and Son Limited and Leonard Fairclough Limited. In practise, McAlpines did the roadworks and Faircloughs did the bridgeworks. The contract period was 25 months and work started on site on 16th March 1970. Though operating nominally as a consortium, each contractor had his own agent and staff and the arguments between the two seemed, occasionally, to an outsider, to eclipse those between the consortium and the county council. Despite this, and the undoubted difficulties inherent in the scheme, the motorway opened on 7th January 1972 22 months from the start of the contract and three months early a considerable achievement.

The contract contained a Variation of Price clause, a device to partially insure the contractor against increases in the cost of basic items such as steel and labour at a time when inflation was high. This resulted in an estimated addition of about 360,000 to the final cost. Coincidentally, this is very similar to the amount by which the estimate of December 1971 exceeded the post-tender estimate of final cost.

The Resident Engineer was given a staff establishment of 19 including 3 admin staff, 3 bridge engineers, 6 road engineers, 2 quantity surveyors and 2 soils staff. The Clerks of Works and Inspectors (about 6 at peak) were additional to this number. I often found great difficulty in explaining briefly and in simple terms to lay people the duties of a Resident Engineer (RE). An early formulation which I used was I look after the road which led to one of my children writing in a school essay, my daddy is a caretaker on a road job. I modified my explanation after that to I watch other people work; it seemed simpler.

It is appropriate, at this point, to discuss briefly certain aspects of the role of the RE and his (or her) staff.

Under the terms of the contract, he is responsible directly to the Engineer[6] as the Employers[7] (clients) representative on site. It is important to remember that it is normally not his job to tell the contractor to get an excavator, 2 men and a couple of wagons and dig a hole, though, like many things, it can be done at a price. He should merely require that a certain size hole should be dug. It is then up to the contractor, within certain limits, to use the right equipment. Of course, with the mutually co-operative approach which pertained on many Lancashire contracts, discussion of ways and means is possible and even helpful. There is a danger, however, that many REs think that they are able to talk with authority on matters which are properly the responsibility of the contractor. This, as many contractors agents will confirm, is rarely the case.

A good contract is a team effort and this stems from teamwork within the contractors and the REs staff. I always felt that all my staff should feel part of the team without the apartheid which often applies between technical and clerical staff and even between road and bridge engineers. One of my first actions, at the start of a contract, was to get the staff together and to try to rub this in. I used to tell them that no one should pass by when something was obviously wrong whether it was a road or bridge or administrative matter and that the tea should be brewed by the person most available. Failure to comply, I reminded them, would result in instant banishment to head office the ultimate deterrent. It seemed to work. No one dared to come to me and say, It was nothing to do with me, it was a road (or bridge or clerical) problem.

It was, and is, clearly the function of the RE and his staff to ensure that the County Council got a good quality job, on time and at a fair price. If the principles of competitive tendering were to be upheld, it was essential that the successful contractor was treated fairly and in accordance with the conditions of contract and the other tender documents. I have no reason to believe that I or my staff, or indeed any other RE of my acquaintance, failed in this respect. I was fortunate, in this case as in many others, to have an effective and loyal group of people to help in this role.

Earth and water

Situated in the foothills of the Pennine range, the route necessitated sizeable cuttings in soils, which were, to say the least, variable. Glacial soils often show this variability but the route of the A627(M) was, in my view, exceptional. It provoked from a respected and conservative soils engineer the statement that there had never been a job like this before[8].

It was general practice in the County Surveyors Department to carry out a thorough ground investigation involving trial pits and boreholes for bridges and for roads. Thorough is, however, a relative word. In glacial deposits such as these, a yard-by-yard examination would be required to accurately determine the likely composition of the various excavations. Such an investigation could only be justified, if at all, with the benefit of hindsight. A report was always produced, subsequent to the site investigation, and this advised the engineer drawing up the contract documents of the likely quantities of excavated material which would be suitable for use as filling in embankments.

I was appointed Resident Engineer at a very late stage in the run-up to the contractafter the contract documents had been finalised. Within a few days of my appointment, I sat down with the engineer responsible for contract preparation to look at the plans and to go through the soils report. The first thing of note was that, with a minor exception, there was supposed to be a virtual balance of cut and fill that is, the requirement for filling materials in embankments could be met by suitable excavated material from cuttings. Encouraging! The predicted figures given to me by the engineer and printed in the contract documents showed that, of a total requirement of 1.6 million cubic yards of filling material, all but 80,000 cubic yards could be provided from material excavated from the site. The 80,000 cubic yard shortfall was mainly specialist materials for filling immediately behind bridge abutments which had to be imported. Only 1.1 million cubic yards was predicted to be unsuitable for re-use. The contractor, of course, in his tender, would base his pricing calculations and his requirement for off-site tips on the quoted figures.

The soils report, to which we turned, went through the job, cutting by cutting, giving predictions of the likely content. All were assessed in similar terms. The soils engineer predicted that seventy-five per cent of the material in the first cutting would be suitable for use as fill providing that the weather was dry and providing that the contractor excavated and transported the material by means of dragline excavators and wagons. If, however, the weather was wet and rubber-tyred scrapers were used, the suitable percentage was predicted to fall to twenty-five. The winter prior to the start of the contract had been exceptionally wet and there was, of course, no power normally available to a resident engineer to instruct a contractor to use other than his preferred plant, provided that his choice was not too eccentric, without incurring considerable extra cost for the employer. I asked my colleague what percentage he had used in assessing the quantity of suitable material. Seventy-five, he replied. To say that my spirits sank would be an under-statement. Things got no better as we worked our way through the report. In each cutting, a similar reasonable assessment had been made by the soils engineer; in each case the most optimistic forecast had been used to arrive at the quantities in the contract.

By itself, this would have been bad enough. The variability of the soils provided an additional complication. In some of the cuttings there was suitable clay and suitable sand in close proximity. Separately they were suitable for use as fillmixed, and they became totally unusable, potentially adding to the deficit of filling material, which seemed to be increasing by the minuteand the contract hadnt even started yet! Though we didnt know it at the time, the weather was to stay bad for a few months. Two early progress reports from the site talk of exceptionally wet weather, in one month an increase of 50% on the average rainfall is reported.

It was therefore clear that we were in trouble. How could we remedy the situation without involving the government and the three local authorities concerned in considerable extra expense? It was here that the merits of a co-operative contractor/client approach as fostered in Lancashire were provednot for the first time. In many other authorities, where a rigid, by-the-book attitude with a consequent adversarial approach prevailed, conflict would undoubtedly have led to large claims for extra cost by the contractor. Much of the credit for this approach is due to the then County Surveyor and Bridgemaster and Engineer to the contract, James, later Sir James, Drake. The fact that this was a county, as opposed to a ministry contract greatly simplified the task of reaching a sensible understanding with the least resulting cost to the ratepayer and taxpayer. Perhaps such an understanding might have been much more difficult if not impossible under the more rigid bureaucratic systems used in government controlled contracts.

I cannot assert too strongly that the attitude at the top gave considerable confidence to the Resident Engineer in his discussions with the contractor. Once the overall strategy had become clear, the RE was able to discuss the problems quite frankly with the contractors agent and this, together with other discussions between the Engineer and the contractors directors, resulted in a contract surprisingly free of earthworks claims. Additional, and fully justified, costs were met by negotiating rates for new or revised work.

The potential for additional cost was considerable. The over-estimate of the amount of excavated material available for fill would have resulted not only in a deficit of such materials with a consequent need to import expensive substitutes but also in the need to find extra tips in which to deposit the excess. This would not have been inexpensive in the semi-urban environment. By negotiating new rates, the contractor was reimbursed for the cost of digging borrow-pits for about 200,000 cu yds of filling material near the line of the road, which were subsequently used for disposal of most of the surplus of unusable material. Other tips were found within the boundaries of the motorway. 110,000 cu yds of additional suitable filling material was created by lowering the profile of the motorway in locations where it was aesthetically and practically possible and where the underlying material was of good quality.

There was also the problem of the separation of different types of material which had been glacially laid down in close proximity. As previously stated, there was no contractual requirement to separate, say, good sands from good clays. Had the contractor, perhaps by the use of indiscriminate excavation methods such as the use of rubber-tyred scrapers, mixed these materials in one embankment, the sand would have introduced water to the mixture which would have ruined both materials. The use of draglines and wagons facilitated separation and maximised the quantity of usable material available. Agreement was also reached to use 260,000 cu yds of marginal excavated materials as filling. Rates to cover the contractors additional costs were negotiated. In all, a deficiency of some million cubic yards, one third of the estimated total of suitable excavated material for use as filling, was made good.

Slattocks Interchange
 


Figure 1 The Slattocks Gusher

Perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the earthworks difficulties happened on 9th August 1970. A second breakthrough of similar magnitude occurred in January 1971. Together, they became known as the Slattocks Gusher. This phenomenon was so unusual that the opening brochure, perhaps uniquely, contained a cross-sectional diagram illustrating the solution to this construction problem. The diagram is reproduced in simplified form as Figure 1. Work was proceeding quite well, after the early realisation of earthworks difficulties, on the basis of agreements reached with the contractor. I had, for the first time for some years, set aside 10 days for a holiday with my long-suffering family and I left the site to drive home along the, as yet, unopened M62. It was with a strange mixture of self-importance and apprehension that, a few miles down the road, I was intercepted by no fewer than two police cars and asked to return to site.

Before describing the sight which met my eyes, some details of the area of the Slattocks interchange at the junction of the main motorway with the Slattocks link to the A664 in Middleton might be helpful. Looking south, which is the orientation of Figure 1, the ground sloped down from the Pennines to the east. The proposed cutting was particularly wide at this point because of the junction roundabout and its attendant slip roads. The deepest part of the excavation was on the easternmost edge of the roundabout carriageway where the finished road level was some 60 feet below the surface. On the opposite (western or right-hand) edge, the roundabout was nearly at ground level. Geologically there were three well-defined strata sloping down from east to west, roughly parallel with the surface. An upper layer of good sand just less than 30 feet thick covered a layer of good clay of about the same thickness. There was little inter-mixing of the clay and sand at this location. It was intended that the roundabout carriageway should be located in the claya very good foundation. At the time of these events, the excavation had reached about 8 feet above the final roundabout level, well within the clay layer, and the piled foundations for the two roundabout bridges were in place.

As, that summer evening, I stood on the edge of a cutting which, when I had last seen it only two hours earlier, had looked a hive of controlled activity, a scene of devastation met my eyes. Under the good clay and sloping down with it was a layer of sand and silt of unknown deptha layer which, theoretically, should not have affected the work. Unfortunately this layer was saturated and, sloping down from the Pennines, was under considerable pressure. With the removal from above it of some 50 feet of sand and clay, the pressure forced the remaining clay upwards. Fissures quickly developed as the clay rose and water, sand and silt poured through them in considerable quantities. Work, naturally, was suspended though a further 10 feet of excavation still had to be carried out. Top level meetings, which, after the second break-through, involved an outside consultant, were held.[9]

To over-simplify the remedy, it was clear that something would have to be done to reduce the pressure, to filter out the solids and to deal with the flow of water, which showed no sign of decreasing. Temporarily a system of well points and pumps was installed around the perimeter of the roundabout area and linked together. Ultimately a main drain of considerable size would take surface water from the summit of the southern section of the motorway, just south of its junction with the M62 at Thornham, through Slattocks interchange and thence to the outfall. The main carrier drain could not, of course, be constructed over the whole of its length until excavation was nearly complete in the Slattocks cutting and in a cutting at Chadderton Heights, between Slattocks and the outfall to the River Irk. Lengths were constructed in isolation and, for some months, water was pumped over the site of the Chadderton Heights cutting in a 6 cast iron rising main. This system of well points was not finally taken out of use until the end of September 1971only some 3 months before the opening date.

A system of eleven permanent linked artesian wells was finally installedeight round the eastern perimeter of the roundabout and three within it. These wells had three grades of filter medium round a perforated central pipe. The filter media were intended to stop the sand and silt getting into the central pipe and, thus, into the discharged water. The decision was made to break the main drain and to construct a lagoon within the roundabout. Three of the well-heads were within this lagoon. The lagoon would provide an additional safety valve in that, if pressure built up because of increased water flow or because of obstructions in the well system, the water would burst through the clay into the lagoon rather than into the roundabout carriageway. Interestingly, though it must be confessed that such an outcome was far from our thoughts in 1970, the lagoon has since been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Rochdale-Oldham has, in fact, two of the very few such sites in the whole of Greater Manchester! It was necessary to test the bridge piles which were already in situ at the Slattocks roundabout bridges to ensure that the subterranean events had not weakened them. Three piles were each loaded to 150 tons, about 3 times the design load, and they performed satisfactorily.

M627(M)
 

A rural idyll The Slattocks lagoon photographed in 1998

A minor difficulty in comparison, though it didnt seem so at the time, was the problem of water supply to some remote properties adjoining the motorway. It is entirely logical that, if one digs a large hole a cutting adjacent to a property which gets its water from an artesian well, there is a reasonable chance that supplies will be interrupted. When this happened in one or two cases, a bowser provided temporary supplies until the official water providers could be prevailed upon to make more permanent arrangements, at a price. No doubt one frontager in particular still thinks fondly of us when he gets his bill from the privatised water company. This particular frontager had a small part of his land severed by the motorway. He was properly compensated but, in all innocence, the County Council, in turn, proposed to sell the small severed area to his neighbour with whom he was not on speaking terms, to put it mildly. The result of this innocent attempt was to initiate campaigns by the frontager which spanned 15 years and involved many solicitors, councillors, MPs, newspapers, the Land Registry, the local government ombudsman and local and national government officers. All these people and organisations, in the words of a legal officer in letters to an MP and others, have withdrawn their interest upon discovering there is no cause for complaint. He went on [the frontager] may telephone yourselves (sic) every day, as he has done with [my] staff, but that is not the same as to say he has a meritorious argument. It was not funny at the time and the passage of time has not leant enchantment.

James Drake and delegation

The Slattocks Gusher was traumatic enough for those of us who had been on site during construction. It must have seemed devastating to James Drake who, since the early concerns about the balance of cut and fill, had not needed to visit the site so frequently. He arrived one day for what he clearly expected to be a routine progress meeting with the contractors directors, accompanied by two senior members of head office staff (Assistant County Surveyors or ACSs) who were both fully in the picture and whose duty it was to brief him. It appeared to me that they hadnt adequately fulfilled this function so, when I was asked if I had anything to show him before the meeting, I took him up to the scene of devastation. My already high admiration for him was enhanced as he stood on the edge of the cutting, saying little and then, at the subsequent progress meeting, evolving a strategy to deal with the problem, both technically and politically.

Between his first look at the gusher and the meeting and in the presence of the two ACSs, he blew his top about something which the bridgeworks contractor had failed to do and, as I was the nearest person, I became the target for his wrath. As we disembarked from the Land Rover at the site office and after James was out of earshot, one of the ACSs turned to me and said, I wouldna let him talk to me like that, Bill. (He was not, as you may guess, English.) He clearly hadnt learned that, when faced with ultimate responsibility for a fairly disastrous situation, any human being needs a safety valve if he or she is to avoid insanity and it was my job at that moment to provide relief. It is fair to say, however, that a better understanding of this fact by both Mr Drake and some members of his staff might have ensured that he was better briefed. It sometimes needed a fair ration of nerve to tell him unpalatable truths and, after doing so, one was left feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth. Many years later, at a pleasant dinner with James and three of his successors, he remarked that he had heard that some of his staff were scared of him. Turning to me he said, you werent scared of me, were you Bill? It is to my everlasting shame that I chickened-out of making a direct reply.

It is, perhaps, appropriate at this point to refer specifically to delegation. The powers given by the Engineer, defined in County Council contracts as the County Surveyor and Bridgemaster, to the Resident Engineer were laid down in two letters. The first of these was copied to the contractor and it defined fairly closely the extent of official delegation. The second outlined to the RE his additional scope for action outside his official powers and clarified certain issues in the first letter. In practise, like all such delegation, and I have no reason to believe that there were wide variations between contracts elsewhere in the country, it was as effective as the individuals involved were prepared to make it. Whilst direct communication from RE to Engineer and vice versa was always possible, the preferred channel was via senior head office staff ACSs or their staff. It is often felt that delegation is a one-way process but the delegatee must play his or her part. It is extremely important in any scheme of delegation that the delegator is judiciously kept in the picture so that he is not put in an invidious position in his dealings with outsiders or with his superiors. If, in this chain of communication, there is a real or perceived block, then delegation can fail or, at least, be made more difficult.

The essential element of any delegation, formal or informal, is trust. If trust fails, true delegation cannot succeed. One of the parties to a delegation will, at some time, feel let down. If, however, he or she recognises that the other has done his or her best, a good relationship can be sustained. If the delegator feels let down by what is perceived to be a betrayal of trust and, as a result, more tightly defines or otherwise restricts the amount of delegation, the system breaks down. The presence of intermediaries between the delegator and the delegatee makes this breakdown more likely if, for whatever reason, the intermediary fails to pass important information to the delegator. The decision as to what, in a particular context, is important is, at times, difficult verging on impossible. To prevent failure, it is essential to have direct communication as a back-stop and the example given above illustrates the point.

I know of no instance, in my relationship with Mr Drake, where I felt dissatisfied with the way in which delegation worked. It was sometimes hard to face a powerful personality with unpalatable facts but, once that bridge had been crossed, the support which I then received was highly satisfactory. Evidence of this will also be seen above in that, once the problems of inadequate billing had been disclosed and discussed, I was left to run the contract without interference until the dread day when another unpalatable fact, the gusher, had to be faced.

Drainage

The main motorway drainage has already been touched on in this account. In general, the drains and watercourses in the area, which were in existence before the contract started, did not have the spare capacity to take the considerable additional run-off from a motorway. The only suitable major outfalls were the River Irk, near Birchinlee Bridge in Chadderton, and Sudden Brook in Rochdale. In effect, most of the motorway drainage from the length south of the M62 was taken in 2.1 miles of carrier drain to the Irk. A 1.25 mile long carrier took the run-off into Sudden Brook from most of the motorway north of the M62. These carrier drains were an effective constraint on the programming of construction and the problems they caused in relation to the Slattocks Gusher have already been described.

Sizeable culverts were required under the motorway and its link roads for Sudden Brook, the Irk and one of its tributaries and the flow in the disused Rochdale Canal. A nineteenth century brick culvert, nominally 36 in diameter, had to be strengthened and reconstructed for a length of some 230 yards under the diversion of Burnley Lane, Chadderton. This proved to be an unpleasant and troublesome part of the works. Although I personally did not see it, I was told of severed limbs and ftuses being found within it at times, presumably originating at a nearby hospital. It would be nice to believe that these stories were apocryphal but my informants were trustworthy.

A measure of the adverse ground conditions is to be found in the extent and complexity of the french drains[10] which were installed to keep ground water levels down. The varied nature of the ground necessitated different grades of filter medium, often in the same length of drain. In all, some 27 miles of french drains of varying diameter were installed about 6 miles of french drain for each mile of new road!


Bridges

Cripplegate Lane Footbridge
Cripplegate Lane Footbridge photographed in 1999


Like the road surfacing, there was little particularly novel about the bridges except, perhaps, the Cripplegate Lane footbridge. This was a five-span continuous structure with a deck of welded steel box girder and reinforced concrete construction, 440 feet long overall and 60 feet above the motorway. 60 feet isnt much but, when one is standing on the top of a pier measuring 2 feet by 3 feet with no hand rails, it seems quite high enough. Its amazing how often the opinion of an office-bound RE is required on some problem affecting the bearings on the top of such a pier when previously things had been going on pretty well without him.

Bridgeworks, surprisingly, were little affected by the earthworks traumas. Even the two bridges whose foundations lay in the centre of the area affected by the Slattocks Gusher suffered only superficial damage. Testing, described earlier, proved that the piles were still of more than adequate strength. Delays to the road construction could have caused access problems to certain bridges but the construction of, and payment for, a haul road reduced or eliminated serious effects. Such difficulties as there were seemed to be largely self-induced by the bridge contractor. For example, he was paid to install a large corrugated steel culvert through a plug to drain a bridge excavation yet he allowed the drain to become blocked and later claimed additional funds to cover the consequences of his own neglect. Foundations were, not surprisingly in view of the known ground conditions, technically critical and received particular attention in design. Three different systems of piling were used. On the two bridges over Thornham New Road, piling was not used, but the bearing capacity of the ground under the abutments was improved by a system known as Vibroflotation in which carefully graded stone was vibrated into the ground.

The piling produced one of those near-misses which make one go cold at the time but, in retrospect, become like fisherman's tales of the one that got away. Birchinlee Bridge, an underbridge near the Oldham end of the motorway, was supported on Raymond stepped-taper piles. Cylindrical corrugated steel casings with a diameter varying from 27 inches to 18 inches in stepped increments were driven to depths of around 80 feet and then filled with pre-mixed concrete brought in mixer wagons from the site mixing plant nearby. Some of the piles were vertical and some were raked at about 1 in 7. It was normal practise on site to drive six piles and then to fill them. On this particular day, a batch of piles had been driven but the concrete wagons had not begun to arrive so the gang retired to their site cabin for a brew. A little later a knock was heard on the door and a local urchin entered. Mister, he said to the foreman, me mates fallen down yon hole. The two boys had, apparently, been sliding down a heap of sand located near the empty pile casings and one of them had gone from thence down an 80 foot raking pile. Fortunately the rake, the steps and the corrugations had all helped to slow his descent and he responded to the foremans call. The latter, with commendable presence of mind, lowered a rubber hose with a brass tap on the end, told the boy to hang on and stand on the tap and pulled him out unscathed. I believe risk assessment ought to be a matter of rational calculation but incidents such as this tend to lend support to the current obsessions with health and safety. Tragically there was one fatality on the contract. A workman had adjourned to his car in a narrow, sunken lane when a large motorised scraper ploughed through the hedge enclosing the road, running over the car.

During the course of the contract, the design of box girder bridges nationally became suspect as a consequence of the collapse, during construction, of two bridges in other parts of the country. Design checks were authorised in July 1971. The only bridge on the Rochdale Oldham Motorway to this design was the Cripplegate Lane footbridge and it was not found to require any remedial work. It had its hour, or, more accurately, week of glory. In October 1971, when Her Majesty the Queen visited Lancashire to formally open the M62it actually opened to traffic between Whitefield and the County boundary at 6.30pm on 3rd August 1971across the Pennines, 20 motorway bridges were floodlit. One of them was the Cripplegate Lane footbridge despite the fact that it spanned an unopened motorway. It still made a fine sight for those who took the trouble to see it.

One bridge on the contract which, though paid for within the scheme, was not under the Engineers control was Gorrels Railway Bridge which carries the former Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Manchester to Leeds line, over the link between the end of the motorway and the A58 in Rochdale. As with all such structures at the time, the bridge, although funded by the roadworks, was built by contractors working directly for and under the direction of the former British Railways Board. The embankment, which the bridge was to replace, effectively severed the last short stretch of the road link from the remainder of the scheme. It had been intended that excavated material from the main contract should be carted under the railway bridge to fill a small embankment but construction seemed interminable. Alternative arrangements had to be made involving transportation along the existing road network through a built up part of Rochdale. This, to say the least, did not please certain local councillors and considerable effort had to be expended on persuading them. Even when work was finished, the bridge still had an unfortunate impact; it is hardly a thing of beauty or a joy forever. On the day of the opening of the motorway, when I was acting as courier on the leading VIP coach, as we approached the bridge, Mr Drake whispered to me, make sure you tell them Id nothing to do with that. I advised the passengers to avert their eyes.

Gorrels Railway Bridge
 

Gorrels Railway Bridge looking towards the A58 roundabout in Rochdale, photographed in 1999

At that time it did not seem possible to make it look worse but a 1997 visit to the site demonstrated that the passage of time had not mellowed itfar from it. In fact it bore a grotesque paint scheme, predominately red and black, and the legend Welcome to Metro RochdaleBirthplace of the Co-op. I suppose, if camouflage is impossible, one might as well maximise the impact. The perpetrators of this decorative excess appear to have had second thoughts. A much more toned-down version, aesthetically assisted by the growth of vegetation, now (1999) adorns the bridge or, at least, converts an unsatisfactory structure into a strategically sited advertising hoarding.

Road Surfacing

The road surfacing on the A627(M) contract was fairly orthodox for its time and consisted of 8 of dense bituminous base with a surface of 4 of two-coat hot-rolled asphalt all on a sub-base of varying thickness topped with 8 of crusher-run limestone. In an attempt to give extra skid resistance in a part of the county subject to severe winter weather, a very high rate of application of the Criggion green pre-coated granite chippings rolled into the finished surface was used[11]. This heavy chipping application was rather frightening to some conservative maintenance engineers but, despite their concerns and despite higher than predicted traffic volumes, there have been no adverse effects. As a consequence, skidding accidents have been rare except on the northbound exit from Thornham roundabout where excessive speeds have resulted in a number of vehicles leaving the carriageway. Fortunately, at this point, the two carriageways are widely separated and there is an excellent barrier between them in the form of surplus unsuitable excavated material tipped during the contract to possibly form the embankment for a proposed but now, I suppose, unlikely flyover. Despite this, the Highways Agency[12] has installed a guard rail and two extensive illuminated chevron signs which, in my opinion, can only make the consequences of any off-road excursions potentially more serious.

An illustration of the greatly increased traffic volumes is to be found in the fact that it has proved necessary to install traffic signals at the roundabout at the Thornham interchange. Some increase had, however, been foreseen in the original design as evidenced by the provision for the flyover.

Liaison with local authorities and service bodies

Except for the question of the haulage of material around the Gorrels Railway Bridge plug which caused a temporary blip, relationships with the four local authoritiesthe two CBs, the Municipal Borough of Middleton and the Urban District of Chaddertonwere excellent. In the case of one of these authorities this occasioned mild surprise.

Before a contract gets under way, a sensible RE spends some time on making contact with public utilities, local authorities, the police and other local interests. This is particularly important if the local authorities concerned have a financial input to the scheme. I called on one Borough Engineer to introduce myself, to discuss our intentions and to find out his expectations. He welcomed me and took me into his office for tea and biscuits. The conversation went well but, on my side, was slightly inhibited by the presence of a small man at a large desk in the corner of the room. We were not introduced. At the end of our meeting, the Borough Engineer accompanied me into the corridor and, as we shook hands, I enquired as to the identity of the mystery man. Oh, he replied, hes my Chairman. Autre temps, autre moeurs, as we say in Wigan.

Compared with many of the jobs, with which I was involved, the Rochdale-Oldham motorway was surprisingly free of problems relating to service diversions. Indeed, there would probably have been no specific reference had I not been reminded of an incident which seems, in retrospect, quite amusing. Early in the progress of the work, the local water authority opened a hole in a footway of the A664 and then promptly forgot about it. It went unremembered for twelve months when the local vicar, whose memory was clearly better than ours, held a well publicised birthday party for it!

Landscaping

Landscaping to the value of 22,211 was carried out. This involved the planting of 189,768 trees of various species, 6,910 rhododendrons and 7,378 yards of hawthorn hedge. Because of the problems of the Slattocks Gusher, there was a deficiency of topsoil in the immediate area and there was also a need to ensure a quick take to the vegetation on the extensive eastern slope at the Slattocks roundabout. It was decided to use hydraulic seeding which involved the projection of a wet mulch, consisting of a mixture of seeds, chemicals and inert growth medium, onto the slope. The opportunity was taken to seed 7,219 square yards with gorse. Rochdale-Oldham was in no way exceptional in the amount of landscaping. It was quite normal on Lancashires new motorways to plant many times the number of trees which had to be felled during construction.

Financial effect of extra work

On a contract containing so many features which were potentially adverse, both programmatically and financially, it was vital to keep a close watch, particularly on costs. Additions and deductions to the tender figure were, therefore, continually assessed and about a month before opening were used as a basis for a revised estimate. These additions and deductions are reproduced as Table 1 below. It must be emphasised that these were not the result of claims by the contractor. When a difficulty was found or anticipated, discussions between the contractor and the employer resulted in agreed procedures and rates for the extra or changed items of work.

Item

Add

Deduct

Earthworks (measured items)

177400

 

Use of marginal suitable material in fill

68250

 

Trenches to drain ground ahead of excavation

15400

 

Transporting suitable material around Rly bridge

28000

 

Dealing with water issues at Slattocks

149700

 

9 down sub-base layer

26000

 

Variation order on sub-base layer

54000

 

Kerbs and channels

 

4000

Mains and services

12249

 

Engineers tests

 

10000

Accommodation works

13175

 

Rechargeable works

4561

 

Bridgeworks

 

79946

Miscellaneous Variation Orders

11126

 

Miscellaneous dayworks

4515

 

Haul road to Slattocks, Stakehill and Thornham Lane bridges

7750

 

Totals

572126

93446

Less deductions

93946

 

NETT ADDITION

478180

 

Table 1: Additions and deductions to contract because of site problems

The last item in the list was the cost of a haul road to enable the bridgeworks contractor to reach the bridges between Chadderton and the Lancashire-Yorkshire motorway, M62, and thus to reduce or eliminate any possibility of a claim from him for increased costs. Without this haul road, access to these bridges was rendered rather more difficult than it might have been because of the problems associated with the gusher.

Of course, it was particularly necessary on a contract such as this to look for possible economies to counterbalance the obviously increasing cost. Not only did the contractor play his part in making proposals which would have this effect but the Resident Engineers staff were constantly on the look-out. Two small examples may help to illustrate this. The roundabout in Rochdale at the junction with the A58 was redesigned in order to eliminate the need for a retaining wall giving a saving of 10,000 and I negotiated with the residents on Thornham Lane in order to construct a sub-standard diversion to enable the earth plug to be removed before the decking of Thornham Lane Bridge was completed.

Contractors claims

At the time this contract was being carried out, there seems to have been, in other parts of the country, an unwritten assumption that the claims for extra payment submitted by a contractor to cover conditions not foreseen at the time of tender would amount to about three times the finally agreed figure. Once again, Rochdale-Oldham did not conform. Because of the co-operation between the client and the roadworks contractor in particular and the acceptance by both parties of the unusual circumstances which applied to this contract, the final roadworks claims were extremely small by national standards and were largely reasonable. The same could not be said, unfortunately, of the efforts of the bridgeworks contractor. Here, a confession is called for. In my view, one of the essential attributes of a good engineer is the ability to overcome difficulties. If he or she is able to do so with a minimal effect on cost or programme, then I feel that professionalism has triumphed. The concept of claims, whilst clearly valid in many cases, militates against this view in that many claims seem to me to be an attempt to convert molehills into mountains. The bridgeworks claims on Rochdale-Oldham were submitted by the party least affected by the earthworks traumas, largely unheralded, and in a manner which would have done credit to Uriah Heap. The presentation by a director of the firm took the form of a volume rather larger than Gone with the Wind but, like that novel and the subsequent film, it was only loosely based on fact. It would be good to report that its sole reward had been an Oscar. In making these comments, I am, of course, revealing more of my own inadequacies than those of the bridge contractor who behaved in a way which was more typical of the industry as a whole.

The opening

The A627(M) was opened on Friday 7th January 1972 by Lady Clitheroe, the wife of the then Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire. In the week before Christmas 1971, I was rung up by Mr Drake who, since the traumas of the Slattocks Gusher, had not had to concern himself over much about the contract and felt that he ought to pay another visit before the opening. He suggested Christmas Eve and then realised that it was a holiday. I said that, if he didnt mind that no one else would be around, it would give us an opportunity for an undisturbed look at the nearly completed contract. He came as arranged and we had a pleasant, relaxed and constructive inspection at the end of which he compared his visit favourably to helping Mrs Drake with the Christmas preparations. Lady Clitheroe also visited the site unofficially before the opening and made a big hit with many of the contractors personnel.

The day of the opening dawned bright and clear. Because of the local authority involvement, the logistical arrangements were more complex than usual. A dozen or so coaches were hired to bring guests from many places including Preston, Rochdale, Oldham and Middleton. All were to drive from the M62 interchange through the job to the Chadderton roundabout where they were to join the local road system for a clockwise loop through Chadderton to the site of the opening under the roundabout. The order of arrival was important and it was a considerable relief when all arrived at the correct time and in the right order. After the ceremony, the coaches were driven through the job with running commentaries from me, the contractors agents and members of our respective staffs. We all dutifully averted our gaze as we passed under Gorrels Railway Bridge. As we went in to the reception in the magnificent neo-gothic town hall at Rochdale, I found myself next to a member of staff of another County Council Department. His main purpose in life seemed to be to play a part in the organisation of motorway opening ceremonies, chiefly from the point of view of protocol. Though this was, as far as one knew, his sole contact with the work, he contrived to give his VIPs the impression that he had built the road single-handedly. It couldnt have gone better if wed planned it, I said as we swept in. He was suitably nonplussed. At the reception there were speeches from Mayors and from Chairmen and, representing the contractors, Bobby McAlpine and Leonard Fairclough. I performed my most onerous duty. I found out that Mr McAlpines horse, which had been running that afternoon, had won!

Wigan, 2000



[1] The Government department with executive responsibility for highways for most of the period covered by this note was the Ministry of Transport. Towards the end of the period, the Department of the Environment became responsible. To simplify matters, I have used Ministry to describe both.

[2] The Road Plan for Lancashire referred to Route 245, described as a main route from Oldham to the Yorkshire Branch Road (Route 3) and Rochdale. (Yorkshire Branch Road seems to be a description of what would eventually become the M62 which would hardly appeal to those who had the misfortune to be born east of the Pennines.) It was envisaged as following the A627 through Royton and only the length between Oldham and Route 3 was to be a dual carriageway. There is however even more potential for confusion in the existence of a projected Route 242, described as a link from the Manchester Outer Ring Road to Rochdale. Elsewhere in the Road Plan Route 242 was described as the proposed Broadway extension: rather like describing the M1 and M6 as the London extension of Preston By Pass, accurate as that may be. In due course, Route 242 was accepted as the parent of A627(M), and Route 245 was quietly forgotten.

[3] The government involvement, of course, was not as a highway authority but as the source of principal road grant. Middleton MBC and Chadderton UDC were not highway authorities for classified roads.

[4] County Council, if used unqualified, means the pre-1974 Lancashire County Council.

[5] This is as near as the Ministry could possibly come to an admission that their procedures were more long-winded than those of the local authorities though, to be fair, change of any sort at a late stage must cause disruption.

[6] The Engineer to the contract in Lancashire was the County Surveyor and Bridgemaster.

[7] The Employer under the terms of the contract was the Lancashire County Council.

[8] This rather rash and untypical statement inspired a rude song. The first verse went:

Theres never been a site like this before,

Theres never been a site like this.

The boreholes show the ground to be

A mixture of that and this.

But in between the boreholes

Its plain for all to see

Its that and this and this and that

Mixed inextricably.

After the second line, the words that and this have been substituted for the original words, each also containing four letters. The chorus was less rude and even more forgettable. It never reached the Charts.

[9] It is my opinion that the County Surveyors Department had within it, or had access to, sufficient experience and expertise to deal with the practical problems posed by the Slattocks Gusher. There is no doubt, however, that the appointment of an outside consultant was politically astute. When the gusher manifested itself, the potential consequences for programme and cost appeared considerable. The employment of an outsider was an insurance policy which was well worth the price.

[10] A french drain is one in which a porous or permeable pipe is laid in a trench and back-filled with a filter medium, the grading of which is adjusted to ensure that fine solids such as silt are excluded from the pipe whilst letting ground water through.

[11] I seem to remember 80 square yards per ton of chippings but I cannot confirm this figure.

[12] At the time of writing, the Highways Agency is the government agency for all trunk roads.

© 2014, Lancashire County CouncilPhone: 0300 123 6701 email: enquiries@lancashire.gov.uk