World’s first plastic bridge installed in UK

The world’s first modular glass-fibre reinforced plastic bridge, 70% lighter than steel, has been launched by design consultancy Arup and bridge specialist Mabey.

Mabey is the first licensed distribution partner of the post-tensioned bridge, which is designed to be assembled in hard-to-reach places where large cranes or heavy machinery can’t go.

Developed by Arup and part-funded by the UK Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), the modular bridge is expected to be of particular interest to the rail industry, providing a safer alternative to level crossings.

The first bridge has been installed at a Site of Special Scientific Interest for Network Rail in Oxford, England. The bridge modules were light enough to be transported by an articulated lorry and then assembled on site and lifted from a distance, Arup and Mabey said in a joint statement yesterday.

Based on Arup’s concept, Mabey is launching the bridge to its customers under the brand name Pedesta.

The bridge is quick and easy to install, minimises disruption to the surrounding communities and significantly reduces ongoing maintenance costs– Rebecca Stewart, Arup associate

It features include identical modules, one metre in length, which are fixed together with bolted shear connectors and then post-tensioned.

The system allows spans of up to 30 metres, so it can adapt to suit any application.

Being 70% lighter than steel, the modules only require a pallet truck or forklift to move, enabling faster, safer and more efficient project delivery.

"This modular bridge is quick and easy to install, minimises disruption to the surrounding communities and significantly reduces ongoing maintenance costs," said Arup associate Rebecca Stewart. "We can see this bridge being useful for a whole host of global applications – from rail footbridges to road and river spans."

Mabey Bridge’s chief executive Michael Treacy said: "What we have developed from Arup’s concept will change the game for our customers who tell us cost and ease-of-use come first."

The development of the bridge was funded by Arup Ventures.

Image: World first in Oxford, England (Mabey)

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  1. Only out with the date by 16 years. Even Halgavor, was only the first publicly funded GRP bridge in the UK.
    I acknowledge this maybe the first modular design, but you need to exercise good evidence with the headline which is deceptive.

  2. There are many different types of plastics – reinforcement is a key word here because I’ve seen so much contortion in plastic applications where items were allegedly manufactured to stay ridged but after several years bowed, sagged, and dipped because plastics simply do not have the rigidness of steel. I hope the trains love it. If it “works”, the less upkeep – maintenance/painting – could prove to be wonderful.

  3. I seem to remember a GRP footbridge being built in 1992 to connect the two halves of the Aberfeldy Golf Course.

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