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Superstructures to be installed over Greater Manchester motorways

Press Release   •   Oct 17, 2012 11:54 BST

Two new superstructures will be installed over two of Greater Manchester’s motorways next month.

As part of the expansion of the Metrolink tram network to Manchester Airport, two new bridges over the M60 and M56 motorways will be manoeuvred into place over two weekends in November.

As a result there will be a full, overnight closure of the M60 between Junctions 5 and 8 from 10pm on Saturday 3 to 10pm on Sunday 4 November and a full, overnight closure of the M56 between Junctions 2 and 5 from 10pm on Saturday 24 to 10pm on Sunday 25 November.

Each closure will start to be introduced at 9pm, with lane closures in advance of each approaching junction, ahead of the motorway closing in full in each direction from 10pm.

Strategic diversions for long distance, through-traffic will use the rest of the motorway network and will be displayed on the roadside variable message signs.

Shorter diversions for local traffic will also be in place on the local road network.

Philip Purdy, TfGM’s Metrolink Director, said: “We’ve worked very closely with the Highways Agency to plan for these closures. The dates have been agreed by all parties and avoid any major events, like Premier League football matches.

“These new ‘rail over road’ bridges mean a full closure of each motorway is essential but our contractor, MPT, has been able to limit the impact of each bridge lift to a single 24-hour window in each case by developing a very particular design.

“The lack of a ‘central pier’ on either bridge means we avoid the need for phased working – which would mean long-term temporary roadworks and long-term lane closures.

“Between now and the closures, we’ll be making sure we give residents, businesses and motorists advance notice of the work and give them the chance to plan and prepare accordingly.”

The bridge over the M60 is south of the existing Fairy Lane overbridge between junctions 5 and 6. The bridge over the M56 is next to the existing Hollyhedge Road overbridge between junctions 3 and 4.

Bryan Diggins, MPT Project Director, said: “These are major and complex engineering undertakings, and have been the subject of rigorous planning for many months by the Laing O’Rourke and Volker Rail teams.

“The road closures will give us a window through which to manoeuvre the 580-tonne bridges into position, where they will form the backbone of the Metrolink extension to Manchester Airport.”

More information will be available closer to the time of the closures through the Highways Agency and TfGM websites.

Andy Withington, the Highways Agency’s Service Delivery Manager, said: “The Metrolink extension to Manchester International Airport is part of an important investment in the transport infrastructure of Greater Manchester and the whole region.

“We have been working closely with TfGM, Metrolink and MPT to help them deliver these two bridges over the M60 and M56 but at the same time minimise disruption and inconvenience to motorway users by keeping these motorway closures as short as possible.

“We will also be working hard over the next few weeks to let drivers know where and what is going on and when.”

 The programme

The superstructures are being built next to the bridge sites and will be driven into place, from approximately 70 metres away, using two self-propelled modular transporters.

Each of these transporters has eight axles, and each axle has eight tyres – which amounts to 128 tyres in total across both vehicles.

The bridge forms comprise single span steel ‘through-deck’ structures founded on traditional reinforced concrete abutments.

 Substructure stats

3,000 tonnes of structural fill (stone)

1,030 cubic metres of concrete

134 tonnes of reinforcement

66 reinforced concrete piles have been used for the foundations of the M60 bridge – including 35 tonnes of reinforcement and 860 cubic metres of concrete. The M56 bridge is founded on existing rock.

Superstructure stats

280-tonne structural steel beams

148 cubic metres of concrete

40 tonnes of reinforcement

Weight of bridge being installed: 580 tonnes


*images attached - Images 1 & 2 show progress on the M56 bridge so far. Image 3 equipment in use elsewhere that is similar to the type that will be used on the M60 and M56*

Media contact: Joel Sawyer on 0161 244 1055 or email

Notes to Editors

1. Transport for Greater Manchester is an executive body of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

2. The Transport for Greater Manchester Committee is a Joint Committee of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the ten district authorities of Greater Manchester, and advises on transport policy.

3. Transport policies that affect the ten districts of Greater Manchester are set by the Combined Authority.

4. To find out more about Transport for Greater Manchester’s recent work, please see our Annual Report at

5. Media plans: during/post installation: TfGM is working with MPT to provide a media viewing spot for the M56 installation, but that will not be possible for the M60 installation. Time lapse footage for the installation of at least one of the bridges is also being considered and, if arranged, will be made available as soon as possible.