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The great majority of bridges fulfil their operational requirements, with closures and failures being rare. However, there have been a number of cases in the UK where significant deterioration of hidden components has resulted in closures, emergency works or major disruption.
In 2009, a railway bridge in Scotland collapsed during passage of a freight train, corrosion of girder webs hidden by ballast having resulted in complete section loss in areas of high shear load. Corroded tendons in the Hammersmith Flyover in London required interim strengthening in 2011/12 and permanent strengthening in 2013-2015 at a total cost of over £120 million.
The UK Bridge Owners Forum (BOF) comprises major UK bridge owners who discuss and co-ordinate research projects and priorities. In 2011 BOF approached the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) to produce a good practice guide for inspecting, identifying and maintaining bridges with hidden components.
CIRIA invited Donald Pearson-Kirk to prepare a brief for the project that was subsequently co-funded by members of BOF who joined the project steering group (PSG) that was chaired by Donald. The PSG oversaw the preparation of the guide that was authored by consultants Arup and AECOM, with the guide being published in June 2017.
The guide provides methods to identify, investigate and manage most known types of hidden defects in bridge superstructures. The guide has four main parts:-