The Mersey Gateway bridge was named one of KPMG’s top 100 infrastructure projects last year – and 2016 is set to be a critical period for it. What work needs to be done – and crucially, who will be needed to do it?
Staff required for Mersey Gateway in 2016 as project ramps up
This is a huge year for the £600m project, which will see a six-lane bridge built over the River Mersey, linking Runcorn and Widnes.
Merseylink – a consortium of Kier, FCC and Samsung – is about halfway through the construction of the Mersey Gateway, which should be open by autumn 2017.
“As we start 2016 the Mersey Gateway project is active on all fronts, from Ditton Junction in Widnes, where the new highway will tie into the A533 Queensway, to Junction 12 of the M56 in Runcorn, the southern tie-in to the existing network,” says Merseylink senior operations manager Jim Rice.
The equivalent of 470 full-time jobs have been created by the project, and up to 1,000 people will be working on site at its peak.
Merseylink has an employment skills delivery plan that works to ensure local people secure these jobs wherever possible.
“The main focus for  will be the permanent superstructure works, which will require formwork, concrete and reinforcement”
Jim Rice, Merseylink
About one in 10 people employed on the Mersey Gateway are from the borough of Halton, with “the majority of the labour” coming from the wider North-west, according to the consortium.
There are also some staff from Bedfordshire-based Kier, Spanish firm FCC and Korean company Samsung, as well as from specialist European subcontractors.
Works on the main superstructure will dominate 2016.
“On the main crossing, excavation of the structure’s foundation and substructure works are nearing completion, so work is changing from temporary to permanent works,” Mr Rice says.
“The main focus for this year will be the permanent superstructure works, which will require formwork, concrete and reinforcement.”
On the north and south approaches to the crossing, deck spans will be cast using a moveable scaffold system (MSS). This 157 m-long, 1,500-tonne piece of kit will take a few weeks to build each 70 m span.
On the cable-stayed main span, the balanced cantilever deck sections will be constructed using three pairs of form travellers, which work in a similar way to the MSS.
“The focus will be on honing and improving cycle times on the MSS for the approach structures and the form travellers for the main crossing,” Mr Rice says.
“Treatment and utilisation of contaminated earthworks materials in the approach embankments is a critical activity in 2016”
Jim Rice, Merseylink
Plenty of other works are taking place as the project team prepares the highway network either side of the bridge.
“On the landside works, focus will be on maintaining safe and effective traffic management measures, which will keep traffic moving through the construction works and allow us to build safely,” Mr Rice says. “There are a number of key utility diversions that must be completed this year.
“Treatment and utilisation of contaminated earthworks materials in the approach embankments is a critical activity in 2016.”
Trades in demand
Specific tasks required at scale this year include placing formwork for reinforcement concrete, drainage, heavy lifting activities, post tensioning and demolition. Traffic control and information systems will become an important part of the project, too, as roadworks near completion.
Joiners, steel fixers, scaffolders, drainage gangs and concrete placers and finishers are just some of the trades that will be in demand during 2016.
An HR programme ensures staff are found to fit the project’s needs, and at the moment no skills shortages are reported on the project despite the problems seen in the wider industry as it comes out of recession.
Vacancies that arise can be filled directly by the companies making up the Merseylink consortium or from the labour-only subcontractors, plant hire firms and specialist subcontractors in the supply chain.
“All the agencies we use are encouraged to support the project with its commitment to recruit locally and from the North West regions”
Jim Rice, Merseylink
There is also an incredible database of 3,000 CVs from candidates who have made speculative applications to work on the prestigious project.
“CVs are checked for suitability before any role is advertised as a vacancy,” Mr Rice says.
Any opening that does arise is initially advertised through the Halton Employment Partnership and then through local contracted recruitment agencies.
“All the agencies we use are encouraged to support the project with its commitment to recruit locally and from the North-west regions.”
As the database of hopefuls shows, attracting people wanting to work on the iconic project is not proving too much of a problem.
The consortium says it offers fair and reasonable terms and conditions of employment; training opportunities; and rates of pay no lower than set out in the construction industry’s Working Rule Agreement.
There is also a huge amount of kudos to working on this high-profile scheme, which has been recognised by KPMG as one of the top 100 infrastructure projects taking place around the world.