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SOCOTEC Monitoring on the Roads: Monitoring the UK’s Highways

When undertaking any form of construction or improvement works on or around highways, it is essential that geotechnical and structural risks are identified, reported and managed over the lifetime of the scheme, throughout the design phase, construction and ongoing asset management.

Over the years, SOCOTEC Monitoring has become well-known as an expert provider of geotechnical and structural monitoring solutions for major roadway construction projects up and down the country, involving the monitoring of earthworks – such as cuttings and embankments - and structures, such as tunnels and bridges. Below we recap some of the notable projects SOCOTEC Monitoring has worked on in this field.

 Geotechnical Instruments

Installing geotechnical instruments measuring the strata behaviour on the A85 embankment

Monitoring road embankments  

One recent project for client Balfour Beatty was Phase 1 of the Perth Transport Futures Project. This scheme was designed to provide a new link road from the A85 Crieff Road across the A9 dual carriageway and River Almond into Bertha Park. SOCOTEC Monitoring’s role was to monitor the construction of the new road embankments by installing geotechnical instruments measuring the strata behaviour as the new junction and roads were constructed and the river was diverted.

Due to the proximity of the River Almond, SOCOTEC Monitoring installed piezometers for measuring pore water pressure, in addition to hydrostatic profile gauges and rod and plate settlement gauges to record vertical ground movement. 

Systems to monitor existing embankments and those under construction

From embankments to cutting, whether existing or under construction, SOCOTEC Monitoring designs systems to measure for translational and rotational failures, including inclination, pore water pressure, strain and displacement.

Designed to detect slope failure at Afton Down on the Isle of Wight, in 2001 SOCOTEC Monitoring was awarded the contract to install instrumentation to monitor the cliff alongside Military Road. Following a refurbishment visit, the monitoring system is still operational and comprises a number of tiltmeters buried alongside the road to monitor for any rotation, along with draw wires installed in pairs within galvanised tubes running from alongside the road to positions halfway and 80% of the way to the cliff edge.

If the defined parameters are exceeded, the alarm is raised and the local police station alerted, as well as warning lights and a sign being triggered at either end of the section to prevent cars entering the area.

A bespoke monitoring system for rock fall fences  

Also designed to raise an alarm and mitigate the risk to road users caused by a major slope failure, SOCOTEC Monitoring worked with Maccaferri to design a monitoring system fitted to a debris flow fence on The Rest and Be Thankful pass on the A83 trunk road in the West of Scotland.

This asset has long been challenging to maintain, due to frequent debris flows causing the road to close at times. As part of the risk mitigation strategy, SOCOTEC Monitoring installed a fence monitoring system, along with a GPRS camera with infra-red light, in order that live images can be used to validate data from the sensors.

The bespoke monitoring system is data logged with a power-efficient logger, capable of logging and reporting on batteries alone for in excess of 18 month.

Monitoring solutions for bridges and underpasses

As well as monitoring geotechnical assets, SOCOTEC Monitoring has installed systems to measure the impact of highway construction and improvement works on adjacent structures, such as bridges and underpasses, measuring parameters including inclination, strain, displacements and acceleration.

A junction improvement scheme that SOCOTEC Monitoring was involved with, which required bridge monitoring, was the Highways England redevelopment of the A19/A1058 Coast Road Junction between Doncaster and the Tyne Tunnel. Sisk-Lagan JV were selected to make vital improvements to the North Tyneside A19/A1058 junction by lowering the A19 beneath the existing roundabout into a cutting, whilst also upgrading it to a three-level interchange, better known as the Silverlink junction.

SOCOTEC Monitoring introduced a number of wireless monitoring techniques and, as a result, provided key value engineering benefits and avoided the difficulties of laying extensive cabling networks. This provided significant health, safety and environmental improvements on the project through reducing the number of visits to the site by SOCOTEC Monitoring engineers.

A19 Silverlink                       

A19 Silverlink Junction bridge monitoring            

Monitoring existing tunnels and ground movements caused by new tunnelling works

Another type structural asset often requiring monitoring during highway works is tunnels. SOCOTEC Monitoring has experience of designing and installing solutions to measure existing tunnels, adits and culverts for parameters including ovalisation, settlement and heave, as well as any ground movements as a result of new tunnelling activity.

One such monitoring scheme was designed to ensure that the Greenwich Peninsula development works did not impact on the Blackwall Tunnel, and measured settlement, heave and convergence. This included the installation, commissioning and monitoring of structural instrumentation within the Northbound Blackwall Tunnel, cabled back to data loggers which uploaded the data remotely to SOCOTEC Monitoring’s data visualisation software, Calyx OMS™, for near real time monitoring.

Supporting vital decision making with reliable data 

The overall effectiveness of any highway construction or asset monitoring project is greatly enhanced when the client teams have access to instant and reliable data. This is why, on nearly all projects involving SOCOTEC Monitoring, the geotechnical and structural monitoring data gathered is transferred to Calyx OMS™ for interpretation by the client teams. This software has received extensive praise across the construction industry for its ease of use and ability to manage multiple sites for clients.

From design, construction and ongoing asset management monitoring, SOCOTEC Monitoring’s expertise in highway infrastructure allows our team to provide solutions whether your requirement is for straightforward installation of settlement plates or a fully integrated and datalogged array of geotechnical sensors.

If you are working on a highways project and have a geotechnical or structural challenge to discuss, please contact the team today. We’re always happy to share our expertise.

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