Rain proves a bigger problem than Covid for Preston-M55 link road work

Wet weather has hampered work on a major link road on the outskirts of Preston more than any complications caused by Covid, it has emerged.

Wednesday, 2nd December 2020, 9:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 9:15 pm

Construction of the Preston Western Distributor has remained largely on track in spite of the social distancing requirements in place on the site since March.

However, “unseasonal” amounts of rain in recent months have put a dampener on some aspects of the £207m project, which will connect the A583/A5085 Blackpool Road/Riversway with a new junction on the M55 at Bartle.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Work has continued on the Preston Western Distributor throughout the pandemic (image: Costain)

A recent meeting of the Central Lancashire strategic planning joint advisory committee heard that the scheme was progressing “very well and efficiently” in the face of the pandemic.

Marcus Hudson, Lancashire County Council’s head of planning, added: “It has required some creative thinking, but over the winter and into spring and early summer, we hadn’t lost any time at all on the programme.

“Unfortunately, we then came to unseasonal levels of rainfall - nothing to do with the pandemic - and that has challenged us.

“There are a lot of structures that we’re dealing with and that unseasonal weather has impacted on the progress of several of those - and we’re now looking at ways we can catch up,” Mr. Hudson said.

Papers presented to the meeting reveal that work to create a viaduct over Savick Brook has been disrupted by the effect of the heavy rainfall on earthworks and the installation of piles for the structure. As a result, that section of the two-and-a-half-mile dual carriageway is now eight weeks behind schedule.

There has also been unspecified delay to the diversion of the Hodder Aqueduct - and that has been attributed to the need for Covid caution.

“This...has been caused by the challenges of continuing activities in constrained working spaces whilst adhering to the national Covid guidance restrictions,” a City Deal update report noted.

In the coming winter months, works will concentrate on non-weather dependant activity - with progress planned on the structures within the scheme and the kerbing and surfacing of the roundabout close to the Saddle Inn.

Work on the route officially began in November 2019 and, at the time, was expected to be completed by March 2023.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE A582?

Longstanding plans to turn the A582 in South Ribble into a dual carriageway are “proceeding at some pace”, Mr, Hudson told committee members.

The meeting heard that a planning application for the major scheme between its junction with the A6 in Cuerden and the Broad Oak roundabout in Higher Penwortham is expected to be considered before the end of this year or very early next.

The project is not yet fully-funded. Last year, it was included on a list of projects submitted to the government by Transport for the North, seeking £50m towards the cost of the scheme.

However, unlike the Preston Western Distributor, it was not granted the cash to begin construction immediately – and nor was it handed development funding.