Video: Now you see it, now you don’t! 4,000 tonne M42 bridge demolished to make way for HS2

20 demolition experts take out 4,000 tonne bridge over the M42 near Solihull to build HS2
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Contractors working for HS2 have removed a 4,000 tonne bridge over the M42 near Solihull to make way for the construction of the new high speed line across the motorway near the Interchange Station construction site.

A team of 20 demolition experts from Solihull-based firm Armac, working on behalf of HS2’s main works contractor in the Midlands, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), carried out the demolition in a 52 hour operation.

The operation was coordinated in conjunction with National Highways, who were able to open the motorway section between Junctions 6 and 7 on Monday (February 12) at 1.30am, which was three and a half  hours earlier than planned, reducing disruption to road users.

The M42 was closed in both directions late Friday evening, (February 9), and the workforce worked throughout the night to prepare the area for the demolition activities. Starting at 7am on Saturday (February 10), the demolition team used a 100 tonne excavator and a further seven 50 tonne demolition excavators to complete the operation, supplemented by numerous breaker and cruncher attachments. 

Six articulated dumper trucks transported the excavated material to a local stockpile where it will be crushed and reused on HS2’s haul roads and work sites. Once the bridge was demolished at around 3pm on Saturday , the debris was removed, the matting taken away, carriageway cleaned, and central reservation and verge restraint systems reinstated, ready for the motorway to be re-opened at 1.30am on Monday 12 February.

 4,000 tonne M42 bridge demolished to make way for HS2 near Solihull 4,000 tonne M42 bridge demolished to make way for HS2 near Solihull
4,000 tonne M42 bridge demolished to make way for HS2 near Solihull

It is the second of two 4,000 tonne bridges in close proximity over the M42 which needed to be demolished so HS2 can build a new twin box structure, which will carry the high speed line over the motorway in the future. The operation by Armac to demolish the first bridge took place in August last year.

The original plan was to demolish the second bridge next year. However, due to two drivers on the motorway below recently striking the bridge, National Highways asked HS2 to demolish the bridge sooner because it had become unsafe.

What’s coming next for HS2 on the M42?

This year, the BBV team will start to construct the huge twin box structure, which will carry HS2 trains over the M42. Enabling works commence in March and piling is due to commence in August.

This new structure, measuring 300 metres length by 25 metres width will cover around 130 metres of the M42 and will be built in position whilst maintaining three lanes of traffic flowing on the M42.

This section of HS2 railway lies between Interchange Station in Solihull and the Delta Junction, a triangular section of the line which enables trains to either travel into Birmingham’s Curzon Street Station or carry on north where trains will join the West Coast Main Line to Manchester.

HS2 said it has already built a new, improved road structure and roundabout in this area, to improve the circulation of traffic around the HS2 railway line and connect the existing road network to the new Interchange Station.

What HS2 and other contractors have said about the latest stage of the project

Alan Payne, Senior Project Manager at HS2 Ltd said: “This operation, delivered by local specialist firm Armac, is another step forward in the construction of HS2 in the Midlands. I’d like to thank the whole team for delivering the bridge demolition ahead of schedule, reducing disruption to roads users.”

Oliver Shore, Construction Director at Balfour Beatty VINCI said: “The safe and successful demolition of this 4,000-tonne bridge is another huge achievement for Balfour Beatty VINCI. This was a complex operation, made even more challenging because of the limited time we had to plan and deliver this critical work. I’m really proud of how the team responded, showcasing their skill and experience in these demanding circumstances.

M42 bridge demolition near SolihullM42 bridge demolition near Solihull
M42 bridge demolition near Solihull

“It’s the second bridge removal we’ve delivered along the same stretch of motorway in just six months. Like the previous demolition last summer, every effort was made to minimise the impact on road users through careful planning and close collaboration between HS2 and National Highways.”

Noel McLean, Technical Director of Armac said: “We were delighted to work with our partners HS2 and BBV again, for the demolition of the M42 North Bridge.  Our primary aim is always to complete the project safely and in a controlled operation.  Thankfully, the project was completed well ahead of schedule. Another successful project from the Armac ‘Bridge Busters’ and all of the BBV team.”

Frank Bird, National Highways Senior Network Planner said: “We are delighted to have been able to reopen the motorway for the benefit of road users some three and a half hours earlier than planned and thank people for their ongoing patience since the bridge was hit last month.

“This has been a challenging task as normally a demolition such as this would be planned over many months. Instead, everyone involved was able to mobilise resources to get it down in a matter of weeks. It has been a terrific collaborative effort with HS2 Ltd and all others involved and one I am sure road users will appreciate with all lanes now open.”