M6 Plastic Bridge Scoops technology award


An innovative 4,3 million $ Highways Agency scheme to install a super-strength plastic bridge over the M6 in Lancashire has scooped a prestigious technical award.

The Mount Pleasant Bridge, between Junction 32 and 33 of the motorway, won the National Institution of Highways and Transportation award for Innovation last June.

The bridge, which is constructed out of a special plastic known as fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP), became the first ever plastic bridge on the motorway network in England when it was installed in April 2006.

It is 2/3 the weight of the old concrete bridge it replaced but almost twice as strong, meaning it could be installed faster, significantly reducing disruption to road users.

Highways Agency project manager Phil Davies said: "This award is a great honor for the Highways Agency and recognition of our continuing commitment to new technology. The use of innovative techniques is essential to ensure that we have a road network fit for modern day road users and using FRP meant the new bridge was two-thirds the weight, but twice as strong as using conventional materials. Drivers noticed the difference because the installation time was reduced. Longer term they will also benefit as the structure will need less maintenance than the older bridges."

The bridge was praised for several benefits which included:

  • Lightweight which allowed rapid installation.
  • Ability to carry vehicles up to 40 tonnes in weight.
  • Superior strength/weight ratio to steel or concrete.
  • Non-corrosive properties with water and salt, thus reducing future maintenance.
  • Reduction in future maintenance means road users will see fewer road works and experience less disruption.
  • Reduction in whole life costs.

FRP is the first major new construction material since the introduction of reinforced concrete 100 years ago.

The M6 scheme was the first time the Highways Agency used FRP for road bridge construction on the motorway network, although the technique had been used on footbridges before.

Source: Highways Agency, Department for Transport, England

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