Tuesday 12 June 2018

1st UIC Workshop on Masonry Arch Bridges held from 7 – 8 June 2018 in Madrid

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The first UIC Workshop on Masonry Arch Bridges took place in Madrid on 7 and 8 June, in the conference rooms of the Spanish Railway Foundation (FFE) in the “Palacio de Fernán Nuñez”.

The workshop was proposed by the UIC Panel of Structural Experts (PoSE). Dr Zoltán Orbán, from the University of Pecs and former member of PoSE, together with UIC, arranged a comprehensive set of very interesting themes which were presented by himself and five highly renowned university professors, Mr William Harvey, Mr Paul Fanning, Mr Matthew Gilbert, Mr José Antonio Martín-Caro and Mrs Adrienn Tomor.

The workshops provided information for railway administrations and other professional organisations on the assessment, inspection and maintenance of masonry arch bridges. The topics included those covered by the UIC Masonry Arch Bridges projects from 2004 to 2015 placing special emphasis on “serviceability assessment”, “determination of permissible load” and “lifetime expectancy” issues, results of which were included in the recently published IRS 70778-3.

After the opening and welcome of the participants by Mr Harald Sattler, a short insight into the responsibility and role of UIC as a key element in international standardisation was given by Mr David Villalmanzo Resusta, followed by Mr Luis Esteras in representation for ADIF.

Dr Zoltán Orbán then gave a general overview on the UIC Masonry Arch Bridges projects and presented the resulting IRS 70778-3 “Recommendations for the inspection, assessment and maintenance of masonry arch bridges” which has been published in March 2018.

General principles of behaviour, inspection and assessment of masonry arch bridges were then highlighted by Prof. William Harvey, who caught the attention of the audience with his humble statement that the complexity of these constructions still would give him challenges even after 37 years of experience. With spirited explanations, illustrated by surprising photos of bridge details and animated sketches he showed what can be learnt by carefully observing bridges.

A set of several presentations then gave insights into the typical damages of masonry arch bridges, non-destructive testing methods and load tests on bridges. The final section of the first day was dedicated to analysis tools. Several tools, for example Finite Element Modelling, were presented and their respective theories compared to concurring tools. Very interesting effects of different load distributions or of the influence of backfill were showed in illustrations and by showing some of the tools in life demonstrations, which kept the attention of the participants to the very last minute.

The first day was then closed by an optional sequence provided by Adif. The presentation of the richly illustrated book “Puentes de fabrica” (Masonry Bridges), written by José Antonio Martín-Caro, fit perfectly to the topics of the workshop. The book has been published together with the promotion and help of Adif.

The second day started with a sequence on serviceability, permissible load and life expectancy. The presentations tied in with the final session of the first on assessment tools. The speakers gave comprehensive insight into modelling and testing methods to estimate dynamic behaviour, degradation of arches under service and the effects of fatigue.

In the second session environmental influences and the respective damages were provided, leading to methods of material analysis and appropriate maintenance methods including examples of typical mistakes.

Four different case studies were presented including the retrofitting of an existing structure in Spain, the strengthening with precast concrete load dispensing slab in one bridge in Hungary, and finally two cases in the United Kingdom, with the assessment of masonry arch viaduct in Brixton and the studies for the structures of this type present at Liverpool Road station.

The conference concluded with a round table discussion session, in which the six experts received open questions from the public, extending on the questions of serviceability, possible new designs, increasing loads and operational conditions in the European Commission future vision for the Trans European Railway networks and dynamic behaviour of the current structures.

The workshop showed that masonry arch bridges are complex, but on the other hand resilient and robust constructions. Thus, they can be kept in service for a very long lifetime while producing low maintenance cost if treated in an appropriate way.

It’s worth protecting the know-how on designing, construction and maintaining these bridges not only to protect the existing ones but also to build new masonry arch bridges.

The workshop was followed by more than 80 interested participants, who held very interesting discussions during the breaks and most of all in the discussion session which closed the workshop.
The workshop received a very positive feedback and will be repeated from 18 to 19 October in Bristol.

For further information please contact Harald Sattler, Senior Infrastructure Advisor:


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David Villalmanzo Resusta, UIC Senior Infrastructure Advisor