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Ringway supports investment into Britain’s historical bridges
February 23, 2018 / Corporate

Ringway supports investment into Britain’s historical bridges

Ringway teams are supporting their local authority partners who are investing millions of pounds in some of Britain’s most historically significant bridges – bucking a trend revealed last month which shows nearly 3,500 bridges across England, Scotland and Wales are below standard.

A report published by the RAC Foundation shows a huge decrease in money being spent by many local authorities on maintaining their stock, which means the total cost of clearing the backlog of work on all bridges – including those that are substandard – is now estimated at £5 billion.


However, through partnership working with Ringway, millions of pounds have been invested to improve hundreds of bridges, including the one of the world’s oldest iron bridges and some of those designed by arguably Britain’s most famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.


Hounslow Highways carried out major refurbishment work to the Augustus Close Bridge in a £1.76m scheme that involved the restoration of two bridges which cross The Ham and Grand Union Canal. The bridges were built in the 1850s as part of what is thought to be the last railway project engineered by Brunel.


Divisional Director at Hounslow Highways, Martin Clack, said: “We’re really proud of the restoration work we’ve done on this bridge. Not only has the scheme improved the local environment and traffic, but it also brought back to life a local historical landmark. It’s an honour for Hounslow Highways to be a part of that.”


The refurbishment scheme was delivered by Hounslow Highways Project Manager, Louise Batts, who joined Ringway as a student engineer in 2010, before successfully graduating and then taking over responsibility for Hounslow’s priority carriageway surfacing and structures schemes at the end of 2015. She was supported on the Augustus Close Bridge by another of Ringway’s graduate engineers, Katie Letheren.


Louise said: “It was an enormous privilege to have worked on a structure originally designed by Brunel. For young engineers, such as Katie and I, to be able to add something to such a significant structure means a lot, but I’m also confident that our contribution has not just maintained the bridges, but also improved them for the future.” Tickford Bridge, in Newport Pagnell, which is the oldest iron bridge in the world still in constant use, is another historically significant structure to be brought back up to scratch by Ringway. It was built in 1810 and is one of just 21 remaining iron bridges in Britain that still carries main road traffic.


A team from Ringway Milton Keynes has brought the bridge’s lighting into the 21st century by replacing the old bulbs with LEDs. The bridge’s ornate lanterns have also been re-glazed and strengthened to ensure they last for the rest of the bridge’s lifetime.


John Upcott, Divisional Director for Ringway Milton Keynes, said: “The new lighting really highlights the bridge’s striking structure, as well as making it safer for traffic to cross.


“The updates have been carefully designed to ensure they respect the character of such a historically significant structure, but our investment and introduction of modern technology will ensure Tickford Bridge can be used by people for many years still to come.”


Elsewhere, Ringway Island Roads is set to deliver an estimated £8.3m of improvement works to 146 bridges on the Isle of Wight – more than 70% of the local authority’s bridge stock – by 2020.


Ian Hodson, Island Roads Structures Manager, said the team must meet many different challenges posed by their location on the Isle of Wight, which is home to several endangered species and has a large area designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).


“Where there are protected species, such as bats, badgers and dormice, we have to be mindful of that and work around them. Although not protected, there are many wall lizards found in the Ventnor area, and where we’ve repointed walls we’ve installed lizard tubes so that they can still reach their habitats. In another wall, we have added ‘bee tubes’, creating a new habitat as part of our repair works” said Ian.


It isn’t just animals which the Islands Road team have to consider though. Life in one of the busiest resorts in England poses many other hurdles for teams bringing the island’s bridge stock up to standard by 2020.


“The island is a major tourist destination and so we are only able to work on busy roads out of season, from the start of October to the start of May. The winter is not an ideal time to be carrying out many types of work, such as concrete repairs, but we must be considerate.


“If you close a rural road, the diversion can be up to five miles. That is a long way on the Isle of Wight, given the island isn’t very big itself. Anything we can do to minimise disruption is important.


“Sometimes that involves us using new processes to ensure our work is completed quickly, but to a high standard. For example, we’ve used UV-cured structural linings to improve smaller culvert structures rather than replace them, as well as concrete canvas material when repairing damaged inverts. This all reduces the work time and disruption to bridge users, but ensures they’ll be fit for purpose long into the future.”


Ian Hodson, along with Island Roads Structures Project Manager Joanne Huett, will be speaking at this year’s Bridges conference, at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on 14 March.


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