Blog: Civils Project of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - M23 J8-10 Smart Motorway Scheme

13 May 2020

sponsored by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield

Civils Project of the Year SECBE Awards 2020 finalist - M23 Junction 8-10 Smart Motorway Scheme (submitted by Kier Highways)

Kier's vision is to be ‘a leading project through close collaboration with a high performing team founded on an exemplar safety culture’ and over the past two years, they have worked on the M23 J8-10 Smart Motorways Programme (SMP). It is a smart motorway scheme for Highways England valued at £186.5m, which is being delivered by contractor Kier Highways, with designers Jacobs Atkins Joint Venture. 

The scheme located in Surrey and West Sussex is 17km long, running from the M25 motorway at junction 8, south to Crawley at junction 10, and includes the busy Gatwick airport spur road at junction 9. Their works upgrade the existing three-lane motorway to four lanes ‘All Lanes Running’ (ALR) with additional technology, signage and emergency areas.

Works to create 12 new emergency areas and concrete bases for 33 new gantries with technology, required substantial retaining wall solutions in existing verges, including 1.7km sheet piling and 1.6 km of concrete Modular Block gravity walls, whilst 179 bored piles have been installed for new gantry foundations. 55km of drainage and verge batters have been upgraded. 40 Cross Carriageway ducts and 24km of communication ducts and cabling have been installed for the 48 new CCTV cameras and motorway signage on the gantries, whilst the central reserve area has been upgraded with 17km of new concrete barrier.

Kier is delivering complex works, in a narrow working area, with a number of different trades. They have a current AFR of Zero and over 1.6m hours worked without a Lost Time Incident. This safety performance has also been boosted by Health & Safety innovations that have been recognised by the client with five Highways England Blue Stars for Health & Safety Innovation awarded.

Innovations like their ‘BIM Station’, a bespoke standalone pod, where the 3D BIM model is open for instant review by Kier construction teams, designers and supply chain for collaborative discussions and problem-solving, has driven cross-function collaboration. BIM station discussions have delivered significant programme savings and team members regularly gather around it discussing buildability and feedback improvements. Innovative thinking has led to £46.1m of verified efficiencies accepted on their Efficiency Register to date. This is the highest claimed efficiency value of all the SMP schemes, and the team is progressing a further £10.3m of efficiencies. 

Other successes:

  • Their environmental lead and his team of ecologists met the statutory ecological requirements and delivered sustainable improvements.
  • Their dedicated Stakeholder manager ensured that collaboration with Gatwick Airport and Network rail brings benefits to the travelling public and their communications network keeps everyone up to date with works.
  • All of these efforts have culminated in the M23 J8-10 SMP becoming the first Highways England scheme to be nominated as a Considerate Constructors Ultra Site. In 2019, at the Considerate Constructors Scheme Ultra Site National Awards, they were finalists in the Collaboration category and won the award for Workforce Wellbeing.

Unique challenges

On the M23 J8-10 SMP scheme, they had 1.6km of verge that needed to be retained in cuttings. They could have used retaining wall methods including bored piles, sheet piles, or gabion baskets, but Kier Highways found a better, more innovative method. They chose Redi-RockTM modular blocks, which gained Highway Authorities Product Approval Scheme certification for use on UK highways in 2018. The Redi-RockTM modular blocks have realised verified efficiencies of over £16m for Highways England on their schemes compared to conventional retaining wall solutions. Installation is simple as the blocks slot together similar to lego with many safety, quality, environmental, programme, logistical and commercial benefits.

Extrudakerb deliver slip form solutions on the scheme, but they have brought innovations in concrete casting and cutting which have removed the requirement for manual cutting of joints. This makes the process safer by reducing HAVS and manual handling. The quality of the machine cut joint is higher, whilst the machine cut is quicker and quieter. Environmentally, there is less dust and less requirement for water to be transported to site for dust suppression.

Use of a bandsaw for cutting steel barrier without hot works fire implications won a Highways England blue star whilst development of a light-up PPE vest with Carnell to warn of overhead structures won another.


  • The M23 J8-10 SMP team worked collaboratively with their supply chain to deliver safety innovations and safety training that has resulted in an AFR of Zero and working over 1.6m hours without a Lost Time Incident.
  • The M23 J8-10 SMP was the first Highways England scheme to be nominated as a Considerate Constructors Scheme Ultra Site. In 2019, the M23 J8-10 SMP scheme was awarded the National CCS Ultra Site award for Workforce Wellbeing and was a finalist in the National award for Collaboration.
  • The M23 J8-10 SMP team has worked collaboratively which resulted in £46.1m 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 demonstrates 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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