Rare chance to be part of UK bridges renewal project


Innovative solutions are being sought to detect and resolve critical hidden defects in highways infrastructure.  

Atkins-Jacobs Joint Venture (AJJV) is leading a new research project to facilitate automated inspections and remote monitoring of bridges and other road structures across the UK – and is seeking partners who are developing that technology.  

Project Structures Moonshot seeks to advance the early detection of defects in significant road structures without the need for disruptive investigation work. 

One of the biggest threats to the structural integrity of a road network is the corrosion of steel elements which are often encased in concrete. 

Structures Moonshot will focus on two specific features: the steel tendons in post-tensioned structures, and reinforcement within concrete half-joints – a ‘shelf’ constructed at the end of one span to support the adjacent span. 

Due to their vulnerability to deterioration, both require intrusive investigation and assessment but often present difficult access challenges for operatives, potentially resulting in road closures and disruption for motorists. 

Self-monitoring and self-maintaining bridges through new innovations and advanced technologies which resolve the issue in a less disruptive and a non-destructive way could hold the key, hopes project partner, National Highways. 

“The underlying ambition of ‘Moonshot’ is to maximise the benefits of recent and rapid advances in technology, tackling the increasing challenge of managing and maintaining the safety and use of our ageing bridge stock,” said Colin George, National Highways’ deputy head of structures and project sponsor for Moonshot.  

“The aim is to reduce the number of unplanned interventions on our roads network – which will mean a better experience for road users – and ultimately to see the automation of activities traditionally undertaken by personnel on site such as inspections and monitoring. 

“We want to identify the best technology that is already available on the market and try out pioneering new ideas – things we might not have even thought of yet.” 

AJJV will do extensive testing and research to find the most suitable solutions for advanced Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) on structures. 

Advanced technologies under consideration include machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as sensors and other imaging technologies. 

Partners will do real-world testing of their innovations on sample sections of the decommissioned A14 Huntingdon Railway Viaduct, which became redundant in 2019 when a new offline section of the A14 was opened to the south of the town as part of a National Highways improvement scheme.  

Results will be published for collaborative and shared learning purposes across the construction industry. 

“Ageing bridge structures create a significant maintenance burden for critical infrastructure owners and the communities they serve across the globe,” said James Watson, Jacobs non-destructive testing consultant. 

“The project marks a significant enhancement in the sector’s approach to asset management and has the potential to reduce costs, improve safety and sustainability and avoid unplanned road and bridge closures,” added Chris Mundell, technical director, transportation, Atkins. 

Firms interested in participating should follow this link and apply by 31 July. Testing will take place in August. 

To learn more about the project, email moonshot.comms@atkinsglobal.com 

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