Timelapse video shows M42 bridge demolition

Armac took eight hours to bring the bridge down and 30 hours to clear up

The 4,000 tonne bridge over the M42 near Solihull had to go to make way for the construction of the new London-Birmingham railway line.

A team of 20 from Solihull-based demolition specialist 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 M42 was closed in both directions between junctions 6 and 7 on late Friday evening, 9th February and reopened at 1.30am on Monday, three and a half  hours earlier than planned.

On Friday the workforce worked throughout the night to prepare the area for the demolition activities.

At 7am on Saturday 10th February, the demolition began, with one 100-tonne excavator and a further seven 50-tonne demolition excavators, supplemented by numerous breaker and cruncher attachments. Six articulated dump trucks transported the excavated material to a local stockpile where it will be crushed and reused on HS2’s haul roads and work sites.

By 3pm on Saturday the bridge had been demolished. Over the next 30 hours or so, the debris was cleared up, the matting removed at around 3pm on Saturday , the debris was removed, the matting taken away, the carriageway cleaned, and the central reservation and verge restraint systems were reinstated.

This was the second of two 4,000-tonne bridges in close proximity over the M42 that needed to be demolished so that HS2 can build a new twin box structure to carry the rail line over the motorway. The first demolition operation, also by Armac, took place in August 2023.

The original plan was to demolish the second bridge next year. However, due to two motorists striking the bridge recently, National Highways asked HS2 to bring forward its demolition because it had become unsafe.

BBV construction director Oliver Shore 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.

“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.”

National Highways senior network planner Frank Bird 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.”

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

This new structure, 300 metres long and 25 metres wide, will cover around 130 metres of the M42 and will be built in situ while 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 that will enable trains to either travel into Birmingham’s Curzon Street station or continue north to join the old West Coast Main Line to Manchester.

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