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Engineering and roped access expertise give BridgeZone an edge in the bridge inspection market. Ed Owen reports.

BridgeZone was set up a recently as 2003, but the firm has already established itself as a rising star in the specialist field of difficult access engineering.

"We pride ourselves on having professionally qualified engineers trained in specialist access techniques such as diving, rope access and confined space entry," explains BridgeZone technical director, Kimble West.

BridgeZone recently helped consultant Jacobs complete a problematic principal inspection on the A48 River Usk bridge in Newport, South Wales.

Jacobs engineers had managed to complete everything but the deck soffit examination. The 187m span deck is located high above the lower tidal reach of the river and poses a difficult problem for inspectors as the deck is 32m wide.

"We often carry out deck soffit examinations using wire rope traverse techniques, however the width of the deck was considerable, also traffic restrictions were simply not an option on the busy A48 and the pedestrian walkways needed to be left open at all times. Some good old fashioned innovation was required.

"We settled on a rolling installation of a wire rope traverse system anchored to the very solid highway specification parapets. We completed the whole detailed examination in a little under three days using a zigzag system. Our engineers wore lifejackets when over the water with our safety boat on-station underneath," says West.

"Our engineers produced the necessary bridge condition report together with engineering drawings for inclusion in the main Jacobs report."

BridgeZone has a long term relationship with Jacobs. "We regularly carry out the bearings examinations for the QEII Dartford Crossing Bridge. Jacobs insists on having a chartered engineer on site due to the serious implications if there are any problems with the bearings," he says.

Jacobs technical director for structures Mike Barrett, has been involved in the engineering management of the QEII bridge for a number of years.

He says: "We have had excellent service from BridgeZone, with inspections carried out safely, efficiently and to programme for a number of years, with excellent communications maintained at all times. As a client we feel confident with the work they carry out and have retained a continued good working relationship."

BridgeZone claims an advantage in that it employs access technicians with engineering training. "Some clients often receive reports written by an engineer who is confined to an office trying to sift through the piles of site notes and photographs often written by staff who are trained in access techniques but have no professional engineering training – the resulting reports are often disjointed at best."

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