THIS huge 56-tonne pile driver is playing a vital role in the ongoing £3.9 million engineering project at Poole’s Gravel Hill

The Daily Echo was granted exclusive access to the site, yesterday, which has been closed to traffic for almost three weeks.

These works - to widen the footway, improve the Gravel Hill and Queen Anne Drive junction and strengthen the embankment - have been affecting thousands of motorists.

Each metal pile being driven into the ground - to stabilise the embankment and stop the road surface crumbling away - weighs almost a tonne.

Borough of Poole (BOP) engineering manager John Rice said: “The work is going well and on schedule. You can clearly see the cracks in the road surface at the top of the embankment.

“Yes, the weight of the machinery we are using has accelerated this process, but it doesn’t take a lot to picture what could have happened if we’d done nothing.”

“We’ve been monitoring the embankment for years, the cracks have been sealed a number of times in the past, but something more permanent had to be done.”

Part of a wider £23.3 million Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership project, the scheme is being carried out to improve the corridor from the town’s port to the A31.

Ahead of the planned works, Borough of Poole (BOP) transportation head Julian McLaughlin said: “We appreciate this closure will inevitably cause some unavoidable disruption to road users and we have taken every opportunity to minimise the impact this will have on people.

Gravel Hill, from Queen Anne Drive to Arrowsmith Road, is closed entirely for the whole works period. However, access for Gravel Hill residents, cyclists and pedestrians will be maintained for the entire four months.

While some work may continue up until the end of January 2017, it is anticipated that the road closure will be lifted by the end of November.

A diversion is being implemented throughout the works, with motorists directed along Queen Anne Drive, Magna Road and Ringwood Road.

Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Gordon Page said: “These road improvements at Gravel Hill mark the start of a multi-million-pound investment into the Port of Poole’s transport infrastructure to unlock economic growth into the region.”

The works also include carriageway upgrading, and improved signalling, at Arrowsmith Road and the construction of a shared footway/cycleway around the Magna Road/Arrowsmith Road junction.

At the Dunyeats Road junction the roundabout will be redesigned to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists

Contractors will also widen the footway from Queen Anne Drive to Dunyeat’s junction, making it a shared footway and cycleway which will provide a cycle link connecting Merley to the town centre.