CARBON FIBRE plate bonding is to be used to strengthen a major highway bridge in the UK for the first time, the Highways Agency confirmed this week.
Barnes Bridge, a four span concrete structure which carries the busy A34 and M56 link road over the M60 at Cheadle, near Manchester, will pioneer the bonding technique. A £2.25M contract has been let to contractor Eric Wright Civil Engineering and is set to start in mid-October.
The bridge will be strengthened to bring it up to European 40t HGV loading standards by bonding carbon fibre reinforced plastic plates to the soffit and beams.
Several local authority bridges have already used the technique successfully, but until now the Agency has used only steel plate bonding. Announcing the decision at a maintenance engineers' conference at Nottingham University on Tuesday, Agency principal structural engineer Francis Carlyle claimed the use of CFRP bonding would halve the time of conventional strengthening methods. An Agency spokeswoman later denied that it had been slow to adopt the innovative technique.
'It has only been used on relatively small bridges in the UK so far, and very few significant structures like Barnes Bridge anywhere in the world,' she said.
Depending on the success of the contract and the results of long term monitoring, the technique could soon be applied to many other highway bridges, including masonry and cast iron.