Blog: Civils Project of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - M20 J3-5 Smart Motorway Scheme

13 May 2020

sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Civils Project of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - M20 Junctions 3-5 Smart Motorway Scheme (submitted by Kier Highways)

Kier's team vision is to be ‘a leading project through close collaboration with a high performing team founded on an exemplar safety culture’ and has worked on this over the past two years. 

The M20 J3-5 Smart Motorways Programme (SMP) is a smart motorway scheme for Highways England valued at £103.1m, which is being delivered by contractor Kier Highways, with designers Jacobs Atkins Joint Venture (JAJV). The scheme located in Kent is 10.5km long, running from the M26 motorway at junction 3, east to Maidstone at junction 5. Their works upgrade the existing three-lane motorway to four lanes ‘All Lanes Running’ (ALR) with the additional technology, signage and emergency areas to make a Smart Motorway.

Their works to create 5 new emergency areas and concrete bases for 27 new gantries with technology required substantial embankment retaining solutions. This required 1.3km of concrete Modular Block gravity walls, whilst 219 bored piles have been installed for new gantry and signage foundations. 20km of drainage and along with 20km of communication ducts for cabling have been installed for the new CCTV cameras and motorway signage, whilst the central reserve area has been upgraded with 10.3km of new concrete barrier.

Kier Highways' Health & Safety management is critical. They are delivering complex works in a narrow working area with a number of different trades. Over 1.1m hours were worked without a Lost Time Incident. This safety performance has also been assisted by Health & Safety innovations that have been recognised by their client - winning Highways England Blue Stars for Health & Safety Innovation and the Highways England SMP 2019 Home Safe & Well Safety Initiative of the Year.

Collaborative planning processes were maintained at all levels, involving all parties, to safely agree and coordinate the works with the introduction of innovative and beneficial products previously unused on the Highways England network. This innovation has put them in a key position for the Highways England Smart Motorway Programme efficiency process with over £16m of verified efficiencies accepted on their Efficiency Register to date and the team are progressing a further £8m of efficiencies.

Other successes:

  • Their environmental lead and his team of ecologists guaranteed that Kier met its statutory ecological requirements and delivered sustainable improvements and innovations that leave a lasting environmental legacy at the end of the project.
  • Their dedicated Stakeholder manager has ensured that collaboration with the Kent Corridor group has brought benefit to the travelling public and their communications network keeps everyone up to date.
  • They hosted Mental Health Stand Downs, inviting speakers including ‘State of Mind’ to talk - with many volunteering to train as Mental Health First Aiders as a result.

Unique challenge

Following an investigation into an overhead cable strike on another scheme by moving plant, motorway schemes were challenged to look for new ways to improve working practices. The investigation highlighted machine drivers were unable to see the blue overhead obstruction cones and the GS6 goalposts during hours of darkness. Initial improvements trialled included placing rumble strips on the surface at goal post locations making drivers aware in darkness, and Carnell’s OVERHEADsafe, a PPE vest worn by operatives that lights up when they are in proximity to overhead structures. 

Another improvement they trialled was the use of an Instaboom barrier with GS6 sensor. They first used Instaboom barriers to protect people plant interfaces in narrow work areas (winning a Highways England Blue Star). They then identified the potential to use these barriers to protect overhead structures. If a vehicle breaks a laser beam set up at the goalpost height, an Instaboom barrier automatically drops across the works road - meaning the item of plant cannot continue along the carriageway, therefore avoiding any possibility of an overhead cable or structure strikes. This earned another Highways England Blue Star and was named the Highways England SMP 2019 H&S Initiative of the Year. It is now being used by other suppliers on different Highways England schemes including Costain on the M1 and Balfour Beatty on the M4.


  • The M20 J3-5 SMP team worked collaboratively with their supply chain to deliver safety innovations and safety training that resulted in over 1.1m hours worked without a Lost Time Incident
  • The M20 J3-5 SMP team won the 2019 Highways England Smart Motorway Scheme Home Safe & Well Health & Safety Initiative of the Year
  • The M20 J3-5 SMP team worked collaboratively with their supply chain to deliver improvement and innovations which have resulted in £16m of verified efficiency savings on their Highways England Efficiency Register

About the Civils Project of the Year Award:

The SECBE Awards team look for outstanding local projects that: demonstrate great team working between the client and entire supply chain; were delivered before the programmed completion date, below the approved cost plan and to quality exceeding expectation whilst delivering the highest of health and safety standards; achieved the lowest environmental impacts; delivered outstanding customer satisfaction and may have also received praise from other stakeholders, and demonstrated the highest levels of the application of best practice, innovation and technical achievement to overcome the project’s challenges.

> Find out more about the other finalists here

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