Refurbishment of Bideford Longbridge

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Refurbishment of Bideford Longbridge

Posted: 05/08/2009 10:55:49

A £2.1 million scheme to repair the historic Bideford Longbridge is nearing completion and is expected to be finished by October.

Although the refurbishment will still be ongoing when Bideford hosts the finish of Stage six of the Tour of Britain on 17 September, Devon County Council says that the cycle race will be unaffected by the work.

It has assured the Tour organisers and public that the road and footways on the bridge will be fully available and accessible on the day, and although some access scaffolding will still be in place, this will not obstruct the view of the race.

The Grade One Listed bridge is being sensitively repaired to retain its character and image as a local landmark. Certain areas of the bridge have gradually deteriorated over the years, and the reinforced concrete cantilever sections, added in the1920s to support the footways on each side of the old bridge masonry arches, have suffered particularly badly.

The work has involved removing areas of cracked and crumbling concrete, cleaning the exposed steel beams and reinforcement, and repairing them with modern high strength repair mortars. In some areas concrete has been sprayed on to the supporting beams to further protect them.

A key feature of the repair work has been the installation of a cathodic protection system, which passes a small electrical current through the bridge concrete and steel which, in turn, stops the chemical rusting process. Using this technique, the life expectancy of the repairs is increased to in excess of 60 years.

The cathodic protection system is one of the largest and most complicated installations of its kind in the country with more than 4,500 titanium electrical anodes tubes being installed into the concrete beams along with nearly 1,000 square metres of titanium mesh. Over 18 miles of cable is being placed in various sections of the bridge to control the protection system, which can be monitored for performance remotely from County Hall in Exeter.

The scheme, designed by Devon County Council, started in September 2008 but has run beyond its original schedule. As with all repair and refurbishment work there is always the likelihood of unforeseen problems occurring resulting in additional work, and this project has been no exception. A close working relationship with contractor Concrete Repair Ltd has therefore been crucial to the success of the project. Typical problems encountered have included finding more areas of concrete than anticipated in poor condition and the discovery of an unusual form of rust called “Magnetite” on some steel beams which has had to be removed.

Work started at the East the Water end of the bridge and has progressed towards the Bideford side. Specially designed access scaffolding has been used to avoid restricting the tidal river flows and to minimise disruption to traffic and pedestrians. Working conditions are cramped at times due to the limited headroom and presence of large gas and water mains, and trans-Atlantic telecommunication cables suspended from the underside of the bridge.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: “It’s unfortunate that the scheme is overdue, but I’m sure that everyone in Bideford will be pleased that the repairs are almost complete. The town will have a bridge that will be much more durable and in a much improved condition. As most of the repair work is taking place under the bridge it is not easy to appreciate the extent or scale of work in the difficult conditions being encountered. With some of the concrete in worse condition than expected, and the severe weather last winter hampering progress, the teams have done well to overcome the problems that have arisen during the project.”

Councillor Sam Robinson, Devon County Councillor for Bideford East, said: “As I pass back and forth between West and East-the-Water I am pleased to see that the work continues apace and I look forward to seeing the restored bridge in all its splendour, come the autumn. I am happy that measures are being put in hand to ensure that the on-going works will not impede the enjoyment of spectators or competitors during the forthcoming cycle race. It is also good to see that there was sufficient foresight to allow for the refreshment of the under-bridge lighting. I feel too that the opportunity should be taken here to praise the efforts of the staff carrying out this work in difficult and testing conditions; they are doing a fine job and are always mindful of the users of the bridge, both drivers and pedestrians.”

In addition to the repair works, the opportunity is also being taken to rebuild damaged sections of the masonry bridge parapet, to install new street lighting, and to resurface the road and footways. To complete the work and to show the bridge off to best effect, the outdated lighting under the bridge is also being renewed.

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