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ICE joins new partnership to help prevent bridge collapses

01 May 2024

The initiative encourages engineers and other professionals in the sector to confidentially report near misses and close calls.

ICE joins new partnership to help prevent bridge collapses
The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on Tuesday 26 March 2024. Image credit: Shutterstock

Bridge designers, constructors and maintainers are urged to support a new ICE-backed partnership aimed at preventing future bridge collapses around the world.

The ICE has joined forces with the UK Bridges Board (UKBB), the Bridge Owners Forum (BOF) and the Infrastructure Client Group to highlight the importance of reporting near misses and close calls to CROSS-UK.

CROSS-UK, which stands for Collaborative Reporting for Safer Structures UK, is a voluntary occurrence safety reporting scheme jointly run by the ICE and the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).

Preventing future collapses

Bridge collapses around the world happen with alarming regularity. Indeed, in the last month, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, USA hit the news worldwide.

This was far from an isolated incident. Since 2000, there have been 66 reported fatal collapses claiming over 1,200 lives.

Preventing these collapses is crucial for our profession.

A key way in which that can be achieved is through sharing lessons from near misses and close calls – more formally known as precursor events.

If these precursors can be recognised, they are vitally important to forecasting and preventing more serious incidents in the future.

Reporting near misses

The new partnership aims to encourage engineers and other professionals from across the world to confidentially report precursors that they have observed through CROSS.

Making a report to CROSS is simple. Read more about the short process and submit a report online by visiting the CROSS website.

For bridges, examples of precursors could include:

  • the unexpected failure of a bridge element, including structural support to bearings, joints, and parapets;
  • structural cracking which appears or reopens after repair; or
  • other symptoms of distress which cannot be explained.

Reporting these precursors will help ensure the safety of structures.

“Bridges and other highway structures are crucial parts of our transport networks,” said ICE director of engineering knowledge, Mark Hansford.

“The ICE has been a joint owner of CROSS since its inception, and we welcome this endorsement from BOF and UKBB.

“The information shared as a result of this partnership will be an important element in helping create safer infrastructure,” Hansford said.

Importance of maintenance

The initiative comes at a crucial time.

Last Autumn’s second National Infrastructure Assessment from the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission highlighted that good road and rail transport links between cities are essential to economic growth yet have been underinvested in.

The NIC’s report added that road and rail infrastructure is likely to cost more in the future due to increased demand, ageing assets and climate change.

The NIC argued that maintenance must therefore be a top priority.

But with budgets constrained, concerns are growing that the investment will be made and that asset condition can be maintained.

It’s hoped that with strong engagement in the bridge reporting initiative, an evidence base can be built that makes the case for sustained investment in asset maintenance.

“By establishing this partnership, the UK Bridges Board are facilitating the sharing of best practice in the design and management of bridges,” said Hazel McDonald, chair of the UKBB.

“We strongly encourage bridge owners, managers and all those working in the sector to confidentially submit reports to CROSS.”

  • ICE knowledge insights team, knowledge insights at ICE