Between 2015 and 2018, Traverse delivered stakeholder management services for the M4 J3-12 upgrade, Highways England’s longest smart motorway scheme to date. Traverse was commissioned by Arcadis Jacobs JV on behalf of Highways England in autumn 2015, to support with communication and engagement work. In summer 2016, we were asked to formally lead Stakeholder Management while Highways England awaited the outcome of its Development Consent Order (DCO) application, granted that autumn.
Our role since then has been focussed on the engagement with local authority and statutory stakeholders, necessary to progressing detailed design and discharging the Requirements attached to the DCO. Additionally, over spring-summer 2018 we led the delivery of Public Information Exhibitions to launch construction.
The M4 J3-12 route spans ten Local Authorities and has around 26,000 neighbours within 100m of the scheme. Smart motorway schemes aim to increase capacity by making the hard shoulder available as a traffic lane, as well as to reduce congestion and improve journey time reliability by implementing new technology on the motorway and variable speed limits to smooth traffic flow. However, on this stretch of the M4, multiple bridge structures do not have space for a hard shoulder conversion underneath them, necessitating demolition and re-build. Read more about the scheme and construction progress on the project web-page.
In line with Highways England’s Project Control Framework governance processes, Traverse produced a comprehensive communications and engagement strategy incorporating public, stakeholder and diverse communities’ plans. We refreshed stakeholder contact data to create and implement an engagement tracker.
A key element of post-DCO consent engagement focussed on helping the Project Team to work with local authorities: to share knowledge and progress detailed design. For example, convening a quarterly strategic workshop with the highways authorities which host the 11 bridges due for demolition (Slough Borough Council, Royal Borough Windsor & Maidenhead and Bucks County Council).
In 2017, we also worked closely with Highways England, Arcadis Jacobs JV and BBV JV (the construction partner), to plan and deliver the stakeholder engagement and consultation necessary to discharging the Requirements (planning conditions) attached to the DCO. As this was a new process for both the Project Team and stakeholders, we arranged briefing meetings for the local authorities and statutory environmental consultees, followed by detailed round-tables on topics such as Air Quality and Flood Risk. We worked with Highways England to communicate progress to stakeholders, and analyse formal consultation responses to feed into reports to the Secretary of State.
Other engagement activities ranged from meeting with local Parish Councils, to organising briefing sessions for businesses needing access to the motorway.
To ensure engagement best practice, we have regularly met with peers on other smart motorway schemes and internal Highways England customer and communication teams.
In 2018, we led the delivery of a series of 6 successful public information exhibitions to raise awareness of the scheme, the smart motorway concept and how the impacts on local communities will be mitigated. Click here to read a more detailed case study.
Success for the Project Team was when the Secretary of State confirmed the discharge of the 26 Requirements attached to the DCO, following the stakeholder engagement and consultation on each. Alongside governance processes, this was a key milestone to enable the start of construction.
Building relationships with local authorities has helped the Project Team to ensure local knowledge has fed into a complex design, and also laid the ground to ensure assets can be smoothly handed back over to highways authorities once complete.