BIM Level 2 for UK Motorways

Civil 3D

From condition to capacity to connectivity, the roads in the UK suffer the same challenges as seen in other countries: the condition of the road networks need maintenance and improvement. Fewer investments in previous years meant disrepair and many surfaces nearing end of life. Capacity is an issue as traffic increases and roads are just not adequate enough to support usage increase. In a report from 2014, it was acknowledged that significant investment was necessary to reach a new strategic vision by 2040 including smarter motorways, smarter management with expressways, enhanced safety and reduced congestions, as well as improved standards for walkers, cyclists and local communities. [Source: Department for Transport Road Investment Strategy: Overview December 2014]

As funding enables road projects all across the UK, BIM standards are incorporated. But many project leads see value beyond the requirements from BIM mandates for project delivery and ecosystem engagement to improvements and return on the investment of the lead designers and contractors on the project. A few examples of the role of BIM on the projects are listed below.

UK Roads Projects and BIM

M25 Motorway – the world’s busiest highway

In the investment plan for London and the South East it is noted that the M25 remains the business of all the motorways in the UK – and the busiest in the world. In 2014 this route was upgraded to four-lanes throughout. Atkins and Skanska Balfour Beatty Joint Venture worked with the Highways Agency on the M25 Motorway and won Autodesk’s BIM Award.

Read the full story here.


Photograph of widened M25 motorway at Junction 19. Image courtesy of Atkins & Skanska Balfour Beatty Joint Venture.


They were honored for informed decision-making on a large design-build infrastructure project; their ability to coordinate design disciplines and resolve inter-disciplinary conflicts; and their ability to virtually plan construction in order to meet fast-track schedule and maintain ongoing operations on a heavily traveled highway.

With the M25 improvements, work also began on improving the links that radiate from the M25 and one such link is the M4.



M4 Motorway

Atkins as part of the Connect Plus – A DBFO consortium was involved in certain elevated sections of the roadway with the Highways Agency. Their part included strategy and strengthening trials. Given the breadth and complexities of the work required and the very high traffic flows on the M4 above and A4 below, detailed planning is essential to minimize the impact on this strategic highways network. Atkins is using Autodesk® AutoCAD® and Autodesk® Navisworks® software to develop an intelligent 3D model—incorporating record information, current works, and long-term asset management data in a single common data environment.  With BIM they were able to test virtually before construction which allowed them to minimize clashes with existing reinforcement, improving data management and providing virtual rehearsals to maximize the efficiency of construction.

View the video of the M4 Elevated Strengthening trial.


Virtual testing helped to minimize clashes and maximize construction efficiency. Image courtesy of Atkins, part of Connect Plus – a DBFO consortium, and the Highways Agency.


A1 Major Corridor

Also in the investment plan, associated to North East England and Yorkshire, is the A1 – one of 4 major corridors in this region. Construction has started on the A1 motorway upgrade between Leeming and Barton. The A1 scheme managed by designers, Grontmij and AECOM, and contractors by Carillion and Morgan Sindall, for Highways England is tasked with improving the safety of the A1 between Leeming to Barton in North Yorkshire.

Read the full story in this article.

A1 L2B Federated Model - Section 7 and 8 Scotch Corner Updates

Image courtesy of Carillion, Morgan Sindall, AECOM and Grontmij

This is to be achieved by widening the carriageway provision and applying motorway standards throughout. To read more on the A1L2B project and how the project team is pioneering a culture change to support the Government and Highways England’s drive to lean practices and embracing BIM principles not just because of government drive but also because they believe in the benefits the adoption of BIM can bring.

A556 Knutsford to Bowdon

Finally, in the investment plan a project in North West England is also applying the principals of BIM. The North West is the home of Britain’s motorway network and, even today, the area around Manchester and Liverpool has a greater number of motorways than all of the South East of England combined. Manchester’s M60 is second only to the M25 in its peak traffic, which is why major upgrades are now taking place between Junctions 8 and 18 and onward to Junctions 18 – 20 of the M62 to bring Smart Motorways to the northern side of the ring. To the south of Manchester is the A556. This motorway has long served as the de facto southern approach to Manchester, despite being a local road that runs through Mere village. Last month construction of a new Expressway-quality bypass began, which will provide a proper gateway to the North’s largest city. The rest of this route into Manchester will receive further upgrades – with Smart Motorways widening the M56 from the A556 to the M60 to four lanes, and with an improved Junction 19 linking it to the M6. As part of the A556 improvements is the Knutsford to Bowdon scheme. [Source: Highways England].

Visualizing designs in context

This image of the Bowdon area of the project, where the new A556 interfaces with the M56 Junction 7, was created in 3DS Max as part of a scheme wide animation that reprocessed the Civil 3D and Revit design models. Image courtesy of Capita, Costain, and Highways England.

Construction of 4.5 mile (7.5km) improvement of the A556 trunk road between Knutsford and Bowdon to create a modern dual carriageway road. This scheme also will consider a single carriageway road with facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. The scheme is between north Cheshire and south Manchester. The A556 carries approximately 51,500 vehicles daily, with HGVs contributing approximately 11% of this figure. The section of the A556 between the M56 junction 7 and the M6 junction 19 is 4 miles (6.5km) long and is currently mainly a single 4 lane carriageway, with sections of dual 2 lane carriageway. Along the A556, numerous properties and field entrances have direct access onto the trunk road. As well as the 2 motorway junctions, there are also 2 other major junctions that connect local roads to the A556. These are the Bucklow Hill junction, and Mere junction. Both junctions are controlled by traffic lights and have restricted turning movements. As such, traffic is often severely congested at junctions along the A556, particularly at peak times, during roadworks and during emergency situations (e.g. after traffic accidents). View the works exhibition from Highways England, November 2014 here.

A BIM Early Adopter with BIM Level 2 Aspirations

Costain is working as Principal Contractor and Capita is designer of this project. The A556 is a Highways England designated BIM Early Adopter Project with BIM Level 2 aspirations, focused on the handover of asset data. By managing to link databases to AutoCAD Civil 3D objects in Autodesk Navisworks, the team have set the standard in handling design, construction and asset data on an infrastructure project. The project was one of the first to go through the new UK government PINS planning process, with detailed design running concurrently. Due to the workflow between Civil 3D and 3DS Max the design team were able to use the Civil View extension to create a fly through animation of the new route and show it at public consultation events. A vehicle restraint system was modelled using a combination of subassembly composer and 3D blocks defined as point codes in a corridor (an envelope of working width has also been added for clash detection). This video velow attempts to show how to use the software to model the same object to appear differently in 2D and 3D. You can also see an example of the bridge designed in Autodesk Revit with full intelligent rebar here.

Video courtesy of Capital, Costain and Highways England.

 Return on investment

  • Time savings: The use of the custom data linking tool to export geometrical data from Civil 3D objects into a database, meant that the design team could then add custom fields and automate the creation of schedules. This strong link between schedules, 2D drawings and 3D models saved a lot of time in reprocessing data due to design changes.
  • Money savings: The use of Navisworks aided the project team in discussions with third party owners of an existing pipeline at Chapel Lane underneath one of the proposed bridges. With no vibration or loading of the pipeline allowable, the 3D model combined the pipeline, structure, pile foundations, and longitudinal and transverse drainage runs and was used in workshops to review, optioneer and agree principles. Use of the model supported agreement to use a protection slab instead of a full diversion, realising savings of approximately £1.2M.
  • Improvement in project performance: As a result of modelling in 3D on a large infrastructure project for the first time, the project team were able to leverage the 3D model in design coordination meetings and solve clash and visibility issues during design (such as the visibility of MS4 motorway signs given their proximity to large ADS traffic signs).
  • Improvement in project delivery: The flexibility of the different Autodesk software allowed the project team to create a custom data linking tool that extracts geometric data from Civil 3D into a database that can be supplemented with construction and asset data. This will improve the quality of product delivered to Highways England and into their asset management information system IAM-IS at handover.
Data linking - intelligent models

A556 – Data Linking. Image courtesy of Capita, Costain, and Highways England

The A556 was designated as a Highways England BIM Early Adopter project with BIM Level 2 aspirations; however with no EIR and the vehicle for handing over asset data unclear, the design team have used a custom routine to link databases to Civil 3D objects in Navisworks. This method utilises Map 3D CAO objects (that ship as part of Civil 3D) to extract geometric data into a database that is then supplemented with custom fields and relinked through data tools in Navisworks and published to NWD (this link is usually broken during NWC export). The Xdata methodology was considered but requires data to be embedded using CAD tools where this approach allows for inexperienced CAD Engineers, Landscape Architects, etc to amend the database and then create their schedules from the same source. In this example we see a fence selected in Navisworks and the live database properties pushed through via data tools to show design data including fence reference, height, mesh type, etc that match the 2D drawings and schedules. With the custom data linking tool in place, this design data can be supplemented with the required asset data at handover.

Highway visualization with hazards identified.

A556 Hazards. Image courtesy of Capita, Costain and Highways England

As with other disciplines on the project, a database was created to store all project SHE hazards. Using the custom data linking tool this database is easily linked to the co-ordination model in Navisworks using 3D markers to represent the hazard like the one shown in this image in front of the A50 roundabout and northern on-slip. The same hazards are linked to tables in AutoCAD to display the information directly on the 2D drawings with no re-typing of information required, and the database can also be exported to form the risk register PCF product without any other formatting or intervention needed. Essentially the single source of information is repurposed many times, which is the essence of BIM. This methodology for recording hazards during design has been recorded in the Highways England knowledge bank. The video below is an example of the   data linking from Navisworks Coordination model as discussed elsewhere in the proposal. After panning around the model two features, a fence line and a health and safety hazard marker, are selected and their properties displayed. Importantly the data shown is a live link to an external database.

Video courtesy of Capita, Costain, and Highways England.


  • Minimizing impacts on the ecosystem – There is a Great Crested Newt population within the project extents that, following a period of trapping, will be able to repopulate the area in 20 new mitigation ponds. The project is also home to 5 bat hop overs, 4 mammal tunnels and a new badger sett.
  • Use of sustainable materials – Pipe networks on the A556 use plastic pipes instead of concrete where possible to reduce the carbon footprint on the project. There is LED lighting across the scheme to reduce running costs. The bridges on the A556 use larger W-Beams in their design to reduce the number of beams required, this results in less haulage and has been entered into the Highways England knowledge bank.
  • Strategies that helped to reduce environmental consequences of construction and/or operation – The Green Bridge is a key structure on the A556 located at Belt Wood. It consists of a 4m wide access track and a 7-10m wide planted wildlife corridor intended to provide connectivity to habitats separated by the new A556 passing through existing fields.


And check out BIM 4 Infrastructure UK– The group provides a forum for organisations and industry professionals to share their journey putting ‘BIM into practice’ – a simple idea, but one we hope will be of great value to its members.


 Learn more about Autodesk and roads and highways projects, here.


To learn more about BIM for roads and highways in the UK, visit the Autodesk BIM center.


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