Top 4 Tips for Bridge Maintenance Access
Maintenance access to bridges is an unavoidable risk. It’s something that must be carried out throughout the design life of many of the UK’s largest infrastructure links. The long bridges spanning estuaries around the winding UK coastline are now beginning to age. Long-term monitoring and maintenance are vital to elongating their lifespan.
Historical access to these would utilise scaffold and rope access. However, thanks to AWD introducing space frame access platforms to the UK in 1990’s, we now have greater possibilities. Over the last two decades we have gained a vast amount of experience in understanding the unique challenges these structures pose and have learned how to ensure a smoother project flow. These benefits are evident in both the design and onsite works.
- Know your bridge! With aging assets, the challenge comes in how not to overload the existing structure whilst ensuring normal bridge function carries on overhead. This has to be achieved without any limits on day-to-day traffic flow. For large scale projects the benefits of lightweight aluminium access systems should be strongly considered. This is because the bridge itself can often be the limiting factor in design, not the access system.
- Know your operational requirements! From inspection to grit blasting to large scale concrete breakout, understanding how the works will be executed are essential to optimising the solution with minimal effect on the existing structure. An over or under-designed platform can add significant costs or programme delays.
- Know your environmental risks! Wind, wind, wind! Probably the biggest challenge in bridge access due to the coastal locations of the larger UK bridges. Key question: What tasks are required to be completed at high windspeeds? Encapsulation removal as wind speeds rise is a common high-risk practice. Designers can often get carried away with operational timeframes or platform downtime and negate the actual tasks they are asking operatives to complete. One handy hint would be the use of a fixed curtain system to eliminate the risk of cladding removal. Curtains can simply be opened and closed as required.
- Full Coverage! The longest bridges in the UK can stretch to almost six kilometres. With traditional scaffold solutions, the installation of scaffolding can take many months. Lightweight moveable platforms can often travel the full length of most bridges with minimal restrictions. Even for challenging details, full soffit access around piers can be achieved with articulated platforms. These are designed so they can be folded or lifted to avoid obstructions, whilst still having free movement on the longer spans.