UK-based design consultancy Arup and bridge specialist Mabey announced they have delivered the world’s first modular, rapid-assembly glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) bridge.

“There is always room for innovation in bridging, and we pride ourselves on pushing boundaries with new materials so we can safely build longer-lasting structures even faster,” said Michael Treacy, CEO of Mabey. “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. This is a significant step in our ongoing mission to lead the future of modular bridging and we look forward to seeing the [bridge] make its UK debut.”

The post-tensioned bridge is designed to be assembled in hard to reach sites where large cranes or heavy machinery cannot be used. Partially funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), the modular bridge is expected to be of particular interest to the rail industry and will provide a safer alternative to level crossings where traditional pedestrian bridges cannot be installed.

The bridge has been installed at a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for Network Rail in Oxford. The bridge modules were light enough to be transported by an articulated lorry and then assembled on site and lifted from a distance.

The bridge is pre-engineered, modular, fully customizable, and features include identical modules, one meter in length, which are fixed together with bolted shear connectors and then post-tensioned. The system allows spans of up to 30 meters, so it can adapt to suit any application. In addition, by being 70 percent lighter than steel, the modules only require a pallet truck or forklift to move, enabling faster, safer and more efficient project delivery. The material provides additional resistance to fire, graffiti, vandalism, and ultra-violet radiation.

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

As part of the collaboration, Mabey will become the first licensed distribution partner for the bridge. Based on Arup’s concept, Mabey is launching the bridge to its customers under the brand name Pedesta™ at Bridges 2017 – a notable bridge conference taking place at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada from July, 27–31 2017.