Building the St. Albans Bypass (now 50 years old)

Photo:The MI, looking north towards Junction 9, mid 1960s

The MI, looking north towards Junction 9, mid 1960s

Les Casey, LHS archives

A talk by Peter Fells at the Society's January 2011 meeting

Reported by John Marlow

Our speaker for the January 2011 meeting was Peter Fells who gave us a very interesting talk illustrated by excellent visuals on the design, management and construction of both the M10 and the local section of the M1 between Junctions 5 and 10 which he worked on from 1957 to 1959.

A bypass to the south of St. Albans was originally planned in 1937 but was delayed by World War 2. This plan was resurrected in the 1950’s but by then a motorway to the Midlands was even more urgently needed.

With three design teams spread between Hemel Hempstead and Hertford, all drawing up plans by hand in those pre-computer days, it is incredible how much was achieved so quickly and that the many bridges designed in Hertford actually fitted the main carriageway drawn at Hemel Hempstead.

The contractors were given only six weeks to survey, soil-test and source materials and sub-contractors before submitting their tenders, with construction to be completed in 19 months. The summer and autumn of 1958 were very wet followed by snow. Wet chalk became almost impossible to work with the mechanical (non-hydraulic) equipment of the day.

Peter’s speciality is drainage and he designed a new type of large soakaway with a long 12” diameter perforated tube going many feet down into the chalk which coped very well with the enormous amounts of surface water.

It seems incredible but the two main contractors (Tarmac and Cubitt) completed the work on time and virtually on budget;they were just £4,000 over on a job that cost £5,665,000 for 17 miles!

Questions from several of the audience followed, showing how very interesting we had found the subject. Thank you Peter Fells!

This page was added by John Marlow on 18/11/2011.

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