The project

This comprehensive 30-week, £16-million ground investigation facilitated designing and constructing additional dual carriageway sections and widening sections of the A66 from Penrith to Scotch Corner. National Highways engaged Structural Soils as the project’s principal contractor. There were more than 20 RSK companies involved in the project.

Project background

The work involved a combination of cable percussive drilling, rotary drilling, sonic drilling, trial pitting, window sampling and seismic cone penetration testing. We managed the work through the client’s delivery integration partners (DIP) and their associated designers, meaning that there were eight additional parties to consult and keep informed throughout the work. To achieve this, we established a significant project team to manage the work, including senior project managers, site agents for each DIP, commercial manager, quantity surveyor, reporting managers, environmental manager, technical/quality managers, services coordinators, land access coordinators, logistics managers, etc.

A total of over 15,000 shifts were undertaken over the project, which equates to 17 years on site. Average site attendance was 80 people on site each day, with a maximum site attendance of 175 people. To complete this impressive project, there was continuous client liaison and contract management, with weekly progress reports/meetings, weekly risk reduction meetings, weekly reporting meetings and standing time meetings held on- site throughout with each DIP/principal designer and daily updates with the client.

Structural Soils projects - A66- image 1

Constraints and permitting

Each of the 1335 exploratory hole locations was managed with a robust permitting system, which included access agreements, ecology, archaeology/scheduled monuments, major/minor services, contamination and unexploded ordnance (UXO). These permits were automatically populated from a master spreadsheet to highlight any constraints and also had a final QAcheck from the site manager, land access team, technical manager and services coordinator.

Over 1500 site meetings and phone calls took place and 170 individual stakeholders were consulted in order to gain access to the site. The site had 1256 locations with environmental constraints, 128 locations were within a source protection zone, special area of protection and site of special scientific interest. As the site is a Roman road with points of interest along the route, we also had over 450 archaeological watching briefs across the project. There were specific areas of the site that had land contamination to manage, ranging from dumped asbestos material to historical chemical weapons disposal sites. It was therefore essential that the consenting and all agreed locations were carefully managed throughout.

If a location moved from its original coordinates, this was highlighted in the master spreadsheet and a permit could not be created until this had been checked off and signed by the relevant people. This way, we could ensure that a move that was required because of one restriction did not transfer into an area with further consenting issues that had not been checked.

The cohesive and collaborative culture within the team enabled efficient management of the project and cost reduction founded on an understanding of the client’s expected outcomes and requirements. By openly communicating and working together towards common goals, the team made responsible decisions that optimised resource allocation. This proactive teamwork-focused approach increased productivity, while decreasing costs.

Structural Soils projects - A66 - work on site


All of the four work packages finished exactly on time or ahead of programme with DIP for Balfour Beatty an impressive four weeks ahead of time. Following this was the huge task of logging of almost 10 km of drilling, taking over 28,000 samples for lab testing, management of over 1,800 lab schedules, hen collating all of these data into seven individual reports for the client, DIPs and designers. The project was undertaken with strict health and safety performance requirements, and the site team completed the job safely with no major incidents/accidents over the six months of site work. Levels of reporting were excellent, with over 400 accident, incident, near miss, positive intervention reports, 1300 point-of-work-risk assessments, 120 drill site inspections and multiple positive audit reports from all parties.

Structural Soils project - a66 road image 3

Added value

During the contract, our staff and National Highways even had time to undertake a litter pick after the Appleby Horse Fair, which was greatly appreciated by the landowners and local residents. We were able to engage with the local community through taking local teachers around the site to help create lesson plans on the project; and also taking on a local work experience student.