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Piled Supported Embankment Reinforced

Project information

Project name

Piled Supported Embankment Reinforced


Bedford, UK


Highways Agency


Scott Wilson


Balfour Beatty

Construction time


Project details

Project description and challenge

The A421 connects the M1, at junction 13, to the A1, at the Black Cat Roundabout and is an important link connecting Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge. The ground conditions in this location consisted of made ground with desiccated crust and soft clay, up to depths of 20 m, with undrained shear strengths of 15 kPa, increasing to around 50 kPa, at depth. The road alignment in this location required the construction of embankments, varying in height from 1.5 m-7 m. If left untreated, the new embankments would result in considerable ongoing settlement, affecting traffic ride quality and consequential maintenance liability for the client. A variety of options were considered to support the road embankments in these locations, with a piled embankment deemed to provide the optimal solution providing both programme and cost certainties.


Geosynthetic reinforcement is incorporated to bridge the tops of pile caps, distributing the weight of the new embankment and maximizing the economic benefits of piles installed in soft foundations. One of the principal design issues associated with geosynthetic reinforcement, spanning between piles, is that the mid span deflections associated with the reinforcement strain, are manageable, and occur during the embankment construction phase. In order to limit these deflections, the design strain in the reinforcement was limited to 3%. The design assumes the entire load from the new embankment is either taken directly by the piles or distributed to the piles by the reinforcement, hence, long-term, the ground between the piles carries no additional load. To ensure this condition is reached, during construction, a compressible fill (processed compost) was placed between the pile caps, below the primary geosynthetic reinforcement layer.


• Immediate use of the embankment, without waiting for settlement to occur.

• Low maintenance: minimised deformation of the embankment after construction.

• Ability to use local cohesive fill material for embankment construction.

• Elimination of effects on adjacent components, e.g. pipes, foundations, etc.

• Special geogrids provided optimal design objectives of high strength and low strain.

• Customised roll lengths minimising waste.

• Economical solution providing cost and program certainties.