A successful two-day conference on the repair and strengthening of railway bridges, organised by Björn Paulsson, was held on 26 and 27 May at UIC. Thirty three participants, including 10 guest speakers, from railways, universities and the supply industry attended the meeting, which examined the current and future needs of railway bridges in Europe.
Gerard Dalton, UIC Infrastructure Department Director, gave a short introduction on the first day and extended a warm welcome to the participants. This was followed by a brief presentation from Björn Paulsson, project manager at UIC, summarising the main issues and challenges in railway bridge engineering today. He stressed that since it is too costly in this day and age to demolish and replace bridges, other alternatives need to be considered, the most obvious being to strengthen rather than replace existing bridges where appropriate. He pointed out that the results from Sustainable Bridges, a four-year European research project, showed that it is in fact possible in the majority of cases to increase the service life of bridges by strengthening them. More emphasis, therefore, needs to be placed on the preservation of existing bridges, with repair and strengthening to be considered henceforth as the immediate priority and not secondary alternative.
Professor Björn Täljsten, from Luleå University of Technology, reported on the work carried out by Work Package 6 within the Sustainable Bridges project, where the priority was to examine how to maintain, repair and upgrade existing bridges. Mr Täljsten listed examples of how, with the rise in traffic volume and heavier loads, it was possible to achieve an increase in transport capacity and service life through strengthening. By employing improved testing methods and assessment tools, it was easier to study the causes and different types of damage to bridges, thus enhancing the strengthening and repair system. One of the project’s main achievements was the production of a set of guidelines, which will serve as a basis for establishing national and European codes for the assessment of existing railway bridges in Europe.
Other presentations dealt with the repair and strengthening of masonry arch, concrete, metallic and steel bridges in Europe. Examples were given of various types of bridges in Sweden, Portugal, France, Germany, Austria and the UK which had been successfully strengthened, and how this was achieved. Also included was a presentation on France’s experience with repairing bridges using injected bolts. Jean-Luc Martin from SNCF cited examples of a number of French bridges that had been tested using injected bolts as part of the repair and strengthening process and the advantages of this particular method.
The conference ended with a discussion of the issues raised during the conference and future action to be taken. Participants were encouraged to give their personal views on the matter and to make suggestions as to how existing problems could be tackled. It was hoped that the meeting would result in cooperation within the railway bridge sector to try and ensure that railway bridges are repaired and strengthened rather than reconstructed.