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M77. Ayr Road Route


The joint SRC/Scottish Office M77 Ayr Road route, on an innovative "design, build and commission" contract, sought to combine the efficiencies of design and build with more efficient financing than then available under the "design, build, finance and operate model". Containing the contract price to £50m, 25% of which was to be paid as retention for trouble-free service over the first 3 years of operation, allowed Ministers to offer the Council ring fenced funding to supplement their pressed resources and for the scheme to proceed. Alan Stewart, the Minister of State and local constituency MP was a prime mover.

M77 extension. Malletsheugh (J5) to Fenwick

The extension of the M77 motorway was carried out in conjunction with extensive works on the Glasgow Southern Orbital (GSO) and, at the time, was one of the largest road construction projects undertaken in mainland Scotland.

The combined £132 million project was undertaken as a Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO) concern and was to become an important part of the country’s strategic road network, boosting economic growth, particularly in Ayrshire and the south-west region of the country.

The 15.2km (9.4 mile) M77 extension (£79 million) runs south from Malletsheugh, near Newton Mearns, to Fenwick in East Ayrshire and replaced the dangerous and sub-standard A77 trunk road (27 people killed and 105 injured during the preceding 10 years) with a dual two-lane motorway.

East Renfrewshire Council (ERC), in conjunction with the Scottish Executive (SE) and South Lanarkshire Council (SLC), entered into a £132 million DBFO project agreement with Connect M77/GSO plc in May 2003. East Renfrewshire Council, as the lead authority, administered the contract. The Connect Group consists of Balfour Beatty plc and WS Atkins plc (Balfour Beatty Capital Projects Ltd and Atkins Investments). The contract is divided into two main parts:

  • The design and construction of the M77 (Fenwick to Malletsheugh) and Glasgow Southern Orbital route. The new roads were completed in Spring 2005
  • The operation and maintenance of the new route for 32 years, including the existing sections of the A77 and A726, while the new route was under construction
  • The new section of dual two-lane M77 motorway, and the other works were constructed for Connect M77/GSO by Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited under a 24 month design and construct contract. Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited employed a lead designer, Atkins Consultants Limited, to complete the outline design provided, under the project agreement, by the lead authority. Atkins Consultants Limited sub-let parts of the design work to Scott Wilson Scotland Limited and Ironside Farrar Limited.

M77 crossing A77Connect Road Operators (CRO), also a Connect Group company, now manage the operation and maintenance of the new route and the sections of existing road network on behalf of Connect M77/GSO. They assumed these operation and maintenance responsibilities on 30th May 2003.

In addition they will be responsible for landscape management and grass cutting, management and liaison of winter maintenance gritting and snow ploughing operations in conjunction with the neighbouring authorities; sweeping, litter picking, sign cleaning and gully emptying.

The new section of the M77 motorway consisted of 15.2km of new dual two-lane, with 7.3m carriageway with 3.3m hard shoulders, a central reserve, and a 1.5m wide verge. The junctions are situated at Maidenhill, Kingswell and Fenwick.

The integration of the new roads into the lowland and upland landscapes was a fundamental element in the design of the route. To alleviate the impacts, the design has incorporated environmental and landscaping mitigation measures as well as several environmental benefits and enhancements these have included:

  • Screen mounding and false cuttings to screen the roads and traffic at sensitive locations, and also help to cut down any noise impacts
  • Rock cuttings have been designed to exploit the natural features and grain of the rock types in the areas around the road construction
  • Steps have been taken to ensure that new trees and vegetation is established quickly on ledges and in crevices to blend the road into the environment
  • Extensive planting of trees and shrubs, together with other seeding has also been undertaken to create substantial new woodland and grassland areas

Hedge planting, stonewalling and fencing has helped to integrate the new boundaries of the roads into the network of fields and other properties.

Work on the M77 commenced In March 2003. For Connect to collect their first full instalment of the 30 year pay back period, they needed to complete construction of the new roads by 30 April 2005, and the upgrade of the existing A77 by August 2005. As with any PFI project the payback was performance related - 80% is based on lane availability and 20% is on traffic volumes.

M77 tarmac quarryOnly one section sat on existing highway - the 2.5km Fenwick stretch of road at the southern end of the M77 extension - overlay the existing A77. As this section intersected with live traffic it proved an exciting challenge to main contractor Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and subcontractor Morrison, who had been awarded a substantial proportion of the M77 construction work.

Widening the existing road meant extending its width to provide a hard shoulder, creating a 25m wide dual lane highway in each direction. The road was then resurfaced to motorway standard. This section of the work was critical as it was the last major piece of construction remaining and only the possibility of deep snow was ever likely to affect the final opening date. Making the project wholly weatherproof proved to be impossible, but use was made of imported fill rather than relying on the existing ground to be dry enough.

Across the site 3Mm3of excavation was required to level out the undulating topography. The earthworks proved to be the biggest challenge overall - with poor quality, small volumes of rock and saturated soil. This was largely overcome by adding lime which made the soil an acceptable fill material. Rock for fill and surfacing was won locally. Tarmac Roadstone set up a quarry on site, near North Floak which provided up to 200,000t of material a month. Balfour Beatty appointed VHE as the bulk earthworks contractor for the construction of the M77.

Contract details

Section Engineer Contractor
Dumbreck – City of Glasgow Boundary SRC Wimpey/Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction)
City of Glasgow Boundary - Malletsheugh SRC Wimpey/Tarmac (now Carrilion Construction)
Malletsheugh - Kilmarnock W S Atkins Balfour Beatty Civ Eng