A1 Coal House to Metro Centre improvements


Duration:3 years


Country: Newcastle, UK

What did this project achieve?


Add more lanes to a 6km trunk road without stopping the traffic

The 6.4km Coal House to Metro Centre stretch of the A1 used to be the third most congested link on the national trunk road network and the most congested regionally.

It carried more than 116,000 vehicles a day – double its original predicted capacity.

This meant stationary or slow moving traffic in and out of Gateshead and Newcastle resulting in long delays and slower journey times.

To solve this meant adding one lane in each direction within the limits of the existing highway boundaries.

Aerial view of the construction works

Aerial view of the construction works

Project achievements and benefits

The scheme had to deal with challenging ground conditions along with significant traffic management restrictions to maintain two lanes running in each direction during the daytime period.

It also involved significant modifications to the existing drainage and sewer networks along with the installation of new road lighting, gantries, variable message signs and CCTV infrastructure.

Keeping the public and workforce moving and safe was crucial. The site was extremely busy and congested – over 90 million vehicles across the life of the project.

750,000 man hours were worked and incident free. The project did not incur a single road traffic accident. It earned top marks from industry health and safety monitors.

A new footbridge was built for non‐motorists and maintained the important link between the two communities split by 10 lanes of traffic.

Regular meetings were held with key stakeholders such as Gateshead MBC and Metro Centre to understand their concerns and requirements. Work was planned with the Metro Centre for peak retail periods to ensure disruption was minimised.

Over 80 people came along to an ‘open doors’ weekend. Visitors received an escorted drive‐through site tour and were encouraged to ask questions.

Environmental benefits

  • Congestion and vehicle emissions reduced. Increased journey times give added social and economic benefits.
  • Dealing with excavated material: a local processor agreed to treat, crush and re‐use this material without a cost to the project. 97% of waste was diverted from landfill.
  • A number of activities were monitored for noise, dust, light and vibration to ensure all levels were kept within acceptable limits.
  • Japanese Knotweed was found extensively across the site. To mitigate the risk of this pest spreading and to reduce the amount taken to landfill it was either left in place and fenced off or excavated out and transported to an onsite reception pit. Both areas will be treated within the 5 year landscape maintenance period.
  • In 2016 the project was awarded a Silver Green Apple for the Built Environment Award.
  • Considerate Constructor Scheme Assessment scored of 47 and 48 out of a possible 50 and the scheme was nominated for a 2017 gold award.

This highly complex scheme required excellent planning and varied construction solutions to overcome the site conditions and significant public interaction. It was incident and accident free to both workforce and public and was delivered on programme and budget.

ICE Robert Stevenson Award 2017

Fascinating facts

For vehicle breakdowns the project used a motorcycle to access a stranded car quickly and then tow it away.

300 people were involved with the construction phase.

78% of project spend was local with 59% spent with local businesses

People who made it happen

  • Client: Highways England
  • Contractors: Parsons Brinkerhoff, Arup, Balfour Beatty

More about this project

Explore more civil engineering projects

I want to become a civil engineer.

See how your studies lead to a civil engineering career

The job you end up with in civil engineering is likely to link back to what you studied at school, college or university. Here you can see your options at any age.

At school

Up to 16 years

School / college

16-19 years

College / university

18 years +

Change career

Any age