What is believed to be the first bridge of its type in the UK has just been installed over the River Frome at the village of Frampton Cotterell, near Bristol. It is scheduled to open for use by the public this September.
The new composite road bridge has been designed by global consultancy, Atkins, which has adapted technology normally used to build advanced passenger aircraft. The wider project team has also included The National Composites Centre, Bristol University, CTS Bridges, Fibreline Composites and SKM.
Atkins hopes the bridge could help pave the way for a new generation of structures which cost up to 25% less than their concrete and steel equivalents over their lifetime, and, if adopted more widely, could save millions of pounds in installation and maintenance costs. Western Europe currently spends around £5 billion per year of taxpayers’ money maintaining and rebuilding its tens of thousands of bridges.
Composite bridges are equally as strong as steel or concrete bridges but lighter in weight, making them easier to transport from the offsite factory at which they are assembled. They are also quicker to install, reducing the need for lengthy road and railway closures and the knock on disruption for residents and businesses these cause.
This type of bridge will also be more resilient against frost, extreme temperatures and de-icing salts, which will significantly reduce the frequency of maintenance checks and the cost of maintenance over the bridge’s lifetime by at least 50 per cent.
James Henderson, senior consultant at Atkins, explains, “The new bridge at Frampton Cotterell is at the forefront of an exciting new phase 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.”
Atkins is an official engineering services provider to the UK’s National Composites Centre and is looking into the advantages of using composites across other engineering projects including London Underground train doors, nuclear infrastructure, gantries and catenaries and wind turbines.
By Gail Taylor