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High-tech bridge ready for the road

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Published: 21/08/2014

Preparations are being made to transport South Gloucestershire’s newest road bridge to its final destination over the River Frome in Frampton Cotterell.

The high-tech bridge is one of the first in the UK to be made from advanced composite materials similar to those used in modern aircraft, making it lighter, stronger and more resistant to corrosion than traditional materials.

The bridge has been assembled at the National Composites Centre in Emersons Green, South Gloucestershire and will be transported by lorry to Frampton Cotterell for installation in the early hours of Sunday 24 August.

Pre-fabricating the bridge off-site has provided the added benefit of speeding up the installation process which in turn helps reduce the amount of time that the road has to be closed to local traffic.

Chair of the council’s Planning, Transportation and Strategic Environment Committee Cllr Brian Allinson said: “This is a complex and innovative project and the council’s StreetCare team and the manufacturers, using the NCC’s specialised facilities, have been working hard to make sure that it’s delivered on time and within budget.

“When we came to look at options for replacing the redundant road bridge on Church Road we knew that one of the priorities for local people was to minimise the amount of the time that the road had to be closed.

“That’s one of the reasons why we chose this advanced technology, because by manufacturing the bridge off site we have been able to speed up the whole installation process.”

He added: “We will also benefit in the long term from the materials used in the new bridge which are more resistant to decay and corrosion than other materials and will require less maintenance, delivering excellent value for money.”

The council has worked with international design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins, specialist bridge designer and manufacturer CTS Bridges, and leading projects firm, Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM), to develop the new bridge.

James Henderson, senior consultant, Atkins, said: “The new bridge at Frampton Cotterell is at the forefront of an exciting new development in civil engineering techniques. The strength and lightweight nature of composites have allowed commercial aircraft to fly further, faster and more economically. Having gained this knowledge and expertise, we wanted to see where else the technology could be used to deliver similar benefits. Our initial idea was to look at bridge building, a form of engineering which has largely been using the same methods for centuries.

“The most attractive benefit of a composite bridge is that it would cost at least 50 per cent less to maintain than a concrete or steel structure over the course of its life. There are other added benefits too, such as the ease of creating bridges with more interesting designs, the ability to create longer spans between legs or other supporting structures and the fact that they will last longer before needing replacement.”

Tom Hitchings Business Development Director at the NCC said, “The National Composites Centre provides collaborative, open-access, research, technology and people development, delivering world-class innovation and knowledge transfer for the design, manufacture and application of composites. The Frampton Cotterell bridge project has provided the opportunity to broaden our understanding of the construction industry needs and the potential for utilising advanced composites materials in that sector.

“The NCC is expanding rapidly and our extension, doubling the size of the centre will be opening for business later this year. The NCC is working with companies from 10 different sectors, such as rail and construction infrastructure, renewables, oil and gas and is no longer just associated with aerospace – this is an important step forward for us. The expanded facilities will widen the UK’s ability to exploit the use of new composite materials and processes, as well as providing support for SME usage and training programmes.”

Works to demolish the old bridge and prepare the site for the new structure were scheduled during the school holidays to help minimise disruption to local traffic.

It is anticipated that Church Road will be reopened to traffic from early September. A three-way traffic light system will continue until November, to allow the bridge’s original masonry parapets to be re-built, utilities reinstalled and final road surfacing to be carried out.

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