How technology is speeding up A303 dualling project in Somerset

NEW technology is helping speed up the dualling of the A303 in Somerset.

National Highways is trialling first-of-its-kind tech which aims to take the ‘guesswork’ out of compacting – when foundations for a road are laid.

Intelligent Compaction is being used on the multi-million pound scheme to dual the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester, as part of Finning UK & Oreland and Galliford Try’s partnership with National Highways.

Compaction, one of the first jobs to happen on site, is the building of the foundations on which a road is built.

Using 3D mapping and a sophisticated sensor system, the new technology ensures the right level of compaction is achieved first time and spots any uneven areas which could cause settlement issues down the line.

National Highways head of innovation, Claire Hamar, said: “We are constantly exploring new innovative ways to design, build and maintain our roads and are committed to making connected and autonomous plant the norm in construction.

“We believe that embracing innovation is the path to more efficient and safer projects.

“A huge positive that we discovered in the Intelligent Compaction trial was the improved efficiency and environmental benefits – as work did not need to be repeated so, thanks to the reduced fuel use, we had reduced carbon.

“Not only is the work completed more quickly saving resources and taxpayers’ money but, most importantly, it improves safety and reduces risk.”

The technology allows the operator to automate the rolling process. Picture: National Highways

The technology allows the operator to automate the rolling process. Picture: National Highways

Finning is the world’s largest dealer of Cat equipment and machines used in the trial are fitted with Cat machine drive power technology and Cat compaction meter value.

The features allow the driver to set the target depth and compaction level required from the cab, with the roller then automatically carrying out the task.

Jonathan Davies, industry manager, industrial, waste and paving at Finning UK & Ireland, said: “Technology increases performance and operational efficiency with the machine operating effectively with reduced fuel consumption.

“Cat soil compactors have two types of sensors that measure the ground stiffness as well as an accelerometer base system, which is common in the industry, and complemented by a proprietary rolling resistance system so it works particularly well in cohesive and clay like material which is common across the UK.

“Without the use of such technology, the only way to be sure of the compaction level across a site is through random testing, which can cause delays on site and safety issues.”

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And Jon de Souza, innovation and research lead at Galliford Try, added: “We were delighted to be able to demonstrate our commitment to innovation through the collaborative delivery of this research trial.

“We believe that connected and autonomous plant has the potential to transform construction over the coming years, improving safety and productivity while reducing carbon emissions.

“We look forward to continuing our work with National Highways to trial this technology across our infrastructure delivery.”

Funding for the trial came from National Highway’s Innovation and Modernisation designated fund.

The £155 million project to dual the A303 has hit numerous delays, due to weather and other factors, and is due to be completed in the ‘winter 2024/25’.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.