Project: Smart Motorway M1 J23A - J25

Client: Highways England Principal Contractor: Costain Galliford Try Joint Venture
On-Site: May 2017-June 2018 Earthworks Package Value (Total): £9,700,000
Linear meterage of earthworks completed: 11,256m Topsoil Strip: 41,245m3
Subsoil excavated: 81,807m3 Aggregate Import: 249,945T



  • Verge widening earthworks, including regrading and embankment construction
  • Installation of temporary works platforms for piling works
  • Laying of sub-base beneath carriageway widening areas
  • Disposal of surplus topsoil and subsoil
  • Demolition of obsolete concrete foundations
  • Dismantling and disposal of VRS barriers
  • Landscaping
  • Provision and maintenance of welfare units across the whole site


In March 2017, works commenced on site for the upgrading of the M1 motorway from junction 23A-J25 to a smart motorway. The principal contractor, Costain Galliford Try Joint Venture (CGTJV) employed Collins Earthworks Ltd to undertake the bulk earthworks and associated site clearance/preparation works.

The main purpose of the earthworks was to widen the carriageway verge to accommodate the new services required for the smart motorway equipment and services. The two primary earthworks solutions utilised were regrades, where the existing batter is cut further back towards the boundary; and embankment build-outs, where the existing embankment is first benched with an excavator, prior to the importation and laying of 6N aggregate to form the new embankment profile. A wide range of earthworks equipment were put to work in order to complete the variety of earthworks processes being undertaken. CAT D5 and D6 dozers, and tracked Volvo excavators were used for bulk excavation exercises. Wheeled excavators were used for completing works where machines were required to work along the hard shoulder. Steelwrist excavator attachments enabled Collins operators to cut benching precisely and efficiently, especially in areas where working room is limited.

Works were primarily controlled by Trimble GPS Machine Control systems, which offered numerous cost, time, accuracy and health and safety advantages over traditional setting out methods and boning in. The Collins engineering team were able to access areas of verge immediately after vegetation clearance, completing topographical surveys which were sent straight back to the Collins site office. These surveys could then be analysed, to ensure that the proposed design earthworks solution was appropriate (proposing alternatives where it wasn’t), and then quantify the volumes of excavation and import required with a matter of hours. This allowed Collins’ site managers to allocate resources to, and programme works to ensure all work areas were completed within required timeframes.

Collins Earthworks also undertook demolition of the concrete foundations for the old gantries and the VRS barriers. Collins sub-contracted the steel VRS barrier removal to HW Martin Ltd, and also provided and maintained welfare units across the site, at the request of CGTJV.

Collins Earthworks successfully completed the project safely, to a high standard, on time and within budget. The main construction works ended in December 2018, with the stretch opened fully to traffic in February 2019.

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