The UK Environment Agency commissioned ECS Engineering Services to replace its aging bridge at its site at Mapledurham on the River Thames, and design, supply and install a new bridge. To ensure the new bridge would last decades with minimal maintenance, ECS used Infracore – a fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) bridge construction technology invented by Fibrecore Europe – which uses FRP to build complete bridge structures at its plant in Holland. Although Fibrecore has built more than 450 bridges installed across mainland Europe, an FRP approach to bridge building is relatively new in the UK.
ECS had two major goals for the project: to improve the capacity of the local access routes to the Mapledurham weir and upgrade the size and strength of the existing bridge structure. To accomplish both, ECS needed a material that would help it combat the challenges involved in replacing the bridge – such as the remote site location, limited vehicle access and short time frames required for installation.
The FRP technology, combined with an off-site manufacturing approach, allowed for the composite bridge deck to be constructed and delivered in a short period of time. The use of a lightweight Infracore FRP deck meant that ECS was able to deliver the bridge to site by floating it on a barge down the Thames.
The installation itself was relatively straightforward, with site preparation taking up a majority of the build time. Once the foundation preparation was completed and the new Infracore Bridge was craned off the water, the actual installation was completed within a day – a key advantage in utilizing a pre-built bridge solution.
According to ECS, the bridge deck itself is molded in a single piece, with an integrated bonded anti slip wearing surface. The FRP deck is custom manufactured to have the most efficient combination of strength and stiffness for the particular bridge span and loading required, which results in bridge decks that are around one-third the weight of steel or concrete equivalents. With no physical joints, and no exterior paint finish required, the bridge decks are maintenance free and are expected to have a service life in excess of 100 years.