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A14 Improvement Scheme

Additional information

Digital working

The IDT developed and used a number of digital techniques to plan and manage this complex project, including:

  • In-house programming skills to develop Smart Permit to Dig (SPtD), a web-based permit platform that manages utility asset information. This approach helps operatives to carry out construction activities in a safer and more efficient manner. 

    One of the biggest challenges on the project was proactively managing more than 500km of new and existing underground services, which can generate up to 1,000 permits to dig per month. The project efficiency team calculated total savings of more than £2.2 million. That equates to more than £1 million each year since its implementation through process efficiencies alone.

  • Pioneeering the use of drone technology to gather and update survey, environmental and project monitoring data. This helped in the construction of 70 major structures that needed planning and design  

  • They also used SiteVision to provide real-time, in-field visualisation of the new routes and structures with accuracy down to a few centimetres. SiteVision brings immediate value and efficiency by linking to precise utility location information. It provides greater accuracy and reduces time and cost that would otherwise be spent locating and protecting buried assets. 

Offsite and modular construction 

Situated between the A1 in the west and the East Coast mainline in the east, the new 750 metre River Great Ouse Viaduct over the environmentally sensitive River Great Ouse floodplain was a critical structure on the A14.  

The team created an off-site temporary ‘flying factory’ that could manufacture precast concrete slabs away from the viaduct but close to the site, which could then be assembled onto a composite steel frame on the span itself. Traditional construction techniques would require a large workforce on the exposed deck, mixing and pouring concrete on a bespoke basis. By deploying design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) techniques the slabs were manufactured in a controlled, weather-sealed environment to exacting technical specifications. The sequential construction and assembly of the slabs, using the flying factory was highly innovative. 


Factory methods allowed for replicability and learning. With a data driven culture of learning and continuous improvement, the process became more efficient as work progressed.

Thanks to the proximity of the flying factory to the viaduct, slabs could be built larger than would otherwise have been possible if they needed to be transported to site on main roads. This also meant that 5,500 fewer crane lifts were required.  

The offsite approach generated efficiency savings of £4 million and allowed the viaduct to be completed two months ahead of schedule.


The slabs were created in a factory environment, sheltered from the elements, allowing more control of the process with no weather-related issues. Fewer people were required out on the exposed viaduct.


The DfMA approach had a positive impact on the environment. Construction was kept away from the floodplain, reducing impact. Efficient factory techniques saved unnecessary deliveries, and it’s estimated that this saved approximately 1,600 tonnes in carbon emissions, based on the reduced number of long-distance journeys involved.  


The archaeology in Cambridgeshire has proven to be spectacular with significant finds frequently uncovered along the route of the new road. The delivery team collaborated with a team of up to 250 archaeologists from MOLA Headland Infrastructure to ensure artefacts and learning were preserved for future generations.

Finds included three Anglo Saxon villages, two Neolithic henges, over 40 Roman pottery kilns with 215,000 shards of pottery weighing 2.8 tonnes in total. Fifteen Iron Age and Roman settlements were also discovered, alongside rare Roman coins, evidence of Britain’s oldest beer and an Anglo-Saxon musical instrument. In addition, mammoth tusks and the bones of other large mammals dating back over 40,000 years were uncovered. 

New initiatives and methods of working paved the way for the use of more specialist labour, giving the archaeologists additional time to concentrate on the detailed excavations. This meant that opportunities on the dig could be offered to non-skilled workers and trainees, providing valuable work experience. To inspire the next generation, the team worked with 12 schools as part of our archaeological outreach programme.  

The delivery team used its expertise, resources and facilities to make things easier for the specialist teams by sharing facilities and ensuring access to their excavations. The delivery team benefited from this arrangement, removing possible delays to the main works, estimating savings of over 15 days over the duration of the project.  

Russel Coleman, Director, MOLA Headland Infrastructure, said, “The A14 archaeological project has uncovered new knowledge of Cambridgeshire’s past on an unprecedented scale, covering thousands of years of history. But it’s also given us the opportunity to bring specialists together from across the world, implement innovations like the traineeship programme, and involve local communities in the project, most notably through the hugely successful community dig.” 

Social value and community engagement 

An important objective for the scheme was to leave a positive legacy for Cambridgeshire, by improving the quality of life for local people and promoting local economic growth. 

The team worked with local communities on options for young people to consider construction and engineering as an exciting career choice. Students from more than 40 local schools and colleges attended over 260 career events, engaging with career professionals and learning how major construction and engineering projects like the A14 scheme are delivered, and the skills needed to deliver them.  

The team also supported a charity Groundwork, who provide support, training and work experience to help participants become more independent and improve their employment prospects. They arranged for young people to work with the delivery team on landscaping projects and to create a sensory garden for animals at the Wood Green Animal Shelter, next to the Ermine Street compound. 

The team worked with a further 12 schools as part of an archaeological outreach programme. More than 50 young people benefited from work experience on the project, with more than 100 apprentices and 60 graduates working on the project.