Following many enquiries from readers, we asked Highways England for an update on the progress of the A52 Clifton Bridge repairs – here is the full detail and plenty of extra information.
Highways England’s Midlands regional director, Catherine Brookes, said:
“Our repair work at Clifton Bridge will ensure it can be used for years to come.
“The priority is to complete this work as soon as we safely can and to keep disruption to a minimum where we can.
“The repair we need to carry out is intensely complex.
“In recent weeks, we’ve been working with industry-leading engineers on the details of the programme.
“We will open more lanes as soon as we are able and thank everyone affected for their patience while we carry out this essential work.”
Key information: the latest at A52 Clifton Bridge
– We’ve been carrying out detailed structural investigations to identify the type of repairs needed and are doing everything we can to get more lanes open over the top of the bridge.
– The repair process involves strengthening the steelwork inside the bridge.
– But before substantial repairs get underway, structural investigations, calculations and detailed design work need to be completed to ensure we provide the correct engineering solution. We’ve made good progress on this in recent weeks while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Much of this involves engineers working and sharing information remotely.
– We’re looking at a phased approach to repairs which should allow us to open further lanes as soon as possible.
– That still means it will likely take several months to complete the work.
The structure was built in the 1970s and has been subject to our robust inspection regime.
It is elevated which means it poses logistical challenges in repairs, not least our teams are working individually in confined spaces more akin to conditions experienced in mines.
This means the operations to both identify the necessary repair and the way in which it will be carried out are very complex.
That is why we’re working with industry-leading engineers to get this work completed as quickly and safely as we can.
The structure is safe and is not at any risk of falling down. But we have taken steps to limit traffic using it to avoid causing any further damage to the concrete as this could mean more disruptive repairs in the future.
– We’d like to reassure the people of Nottingham that we’re doing everything we can to keep the city moving.
– We are continuing to work with local partners to identify whether we can put additional measures in place, such as park and ride. These discussions remain in the early stages and are continuing.
– We appreciate it is not an ideal scenario for users. This work must be done to make sure the bridge can be used for years to come.
– We understand the impact this is having and thank drivers for their patience during this complex operation.
– We are complying with Public Health England guidance on social distancing measures and will continue to follow government advice.
All our sites have strict safeguarding measures to prevent the spread of COVID19 and none of our sites are open to the public. The situation is kept under constant review.
The repair programme
We’re working with industry-leading engineers to get this work completed as quickly and safely as we can.
There are three parts to this work, which all take place while traffic continues to access the bridge: investigations; calculations, analysis and design, and then repair work.
Concrete and steel are investigated. Some of the work involves removing samples, which are sent away to be tested.
Some investigations are completed on-site, involving specialist staff.
Both require confined space-trained staff and mine recovery teams.
The structural boxes inside the bridge are small – too small for someone to stand up. They are also dark, damp and visibility is difficult.
The boxes are elevated and as such difficult to access. Some access hatches can be reached by scaffold, some by elevated mobile platforms, some by ladder.
2) Analysis of investigations:
As investigations progress, calculations and analysis take place to determine the best repair solution and programme. This work has been taking place over recent weeks, with teams working remotely sharing information online.
The investigation results undergo analysis, which can vary from being quite simple to incredibly sophisticated.
More sophisticated analysis involves computer models which themselves can take months to build. They can be 2-D or 3-D.
To do this analysis we need to know:
The measurements and properties of each and every part of the structure, including its foundations, in fine detail, including how it reacts to traffic and natural elements
A completely independent team repeats the whole exercise, with no contact with the assessing team. They then compare and agree the results. This is a legal requirement that ensures safety remains paramount.
3) The repair work:
The investigations and analysis allow us to design the repair programme.
All the work will take place underneath and inside the structure so road users on top of the bridge will not see this taking place.
We will add more steel and concrete to replace that which has been damaged by water over the years or removed during investigations.
We will then remove some of the steel and concrete during the repair work.
Conditions are cramped and individuals are working in areas similar to that of being inside a mine.
The phasing of the work is critical and will be in two stages
Stage 1: We will fix one side of the structure to the left of the lane currently being used by traffic first, to get more lanes back open.
Stage 2: We will then fix the right-hand side of the bridge to enable us to reopen the fourth (outside) lane westbound.
Keeping Nottingham moving
- Firstly, we understand the problems this work is causing. We feel the pain as well. We have family and friends who have been caught in congestion and we’re aware of how busy that stretch of road is.
- We’re talking to the local authorities, businesses and the emergency services to see what we can do to help keep the city moving while we only have one lane open to traffic.
- We have already put measures in place to keep disruption to a minimum. We have set strategic signage on the M1 southbound encouraging people to use the diversion route via the A453 and we have also added in additional mobile signage at the request of the local authority. When and where appropriate to do so, this signage will reference public transport alternatives.
- Highways England have offered ongoing support for police presence to keep key junctions in Nottingham city centre clear, as well as introducing yellow box lining on some junctions and support for Nottingham’s traffic control room.
- We continue to encourage people to consider using alternative routes while we have limited capacity on the bridge.
- To deal with any incidents in the roadworks on the bridge itself, we have also put additional CCTV in place which is linked directly to our control room so that we can assist a vehicle breakdown if and when it happens. We have also placed traffic officer resources on the bridge along with specialist recovery teams so that we can move any vehicles out of the way in the event of a breakdown.
- We are working with the local authorities to explore opportunities to increase park and ride facilities. These discussions remain in the early stages and are continuing.