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CROSS Safety Report

Brick bridge collapse

Report ID: 138 Published: 1 October 2008 Region: CROSS-UK

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A historic bridge collapsed minutes after workers fled to safety.

Key Learning Outcomes

For asset owners/managers:

  • Putting a process in place for the inspection, assessment and monitoring of assets that can be affected by scour and erosion can help to protect your assets

  • Be aware that management plans may need to account for the consequential effects that climate change and rising sea levels may have on infrastructure

For civil and structural design engineers:

  • Be aware of the risks associated with scour and erosion during the design of elements subjected to hydraulic actions

  • Design against scour should be robust as collapses due to scour and erosion can happen suddenly and without any warning

Full Report

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This section contains the Full Report submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s concerns or experiences. However, the text has been edited for clarity, and identifiable details have been removed to ensure anonymity and confidentiality. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process, or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


A historic bridge collapsed minutes after workers fled to safety (Figure 1). They had been reinforcing the flood weakened foundations of the bridge when a crack was seen; then two of the three spans of the brick arch bridge fell. It had been closed to traffic for repairs to scoured foundations and engineers apparently said that prior to the collapse there had been no signs of any structural damage, and no indication it would give way.

Figure 1: collapsed bridge

Investigations are being carried out into the cause of the collapse and the bridge will be rebuilt. Whilst no-one could have forecasted how soon collapse could occur, says the reporter, it does beg the question that if the scour was deep/wide enough, perhaps horizontal props should have been installed as soon as possible after the Bridge Inspection that picked it up.

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

By far the most common cause of bridge failure worldwide is scour, and this is an example. The age of the bridge is significant because older bridges are more likely to have foundations of inadequate depth. The fact that it was a masonry arch may not have contributed to the cause of failure. In general river bridges need adequately maintained river training works, and regular reassessments of the future magnitudes of hydraulic flows, and the adequacy of the training works to contain them. Those repairing damaged structures need to pay special attention to the process of how it is done. In many case preliminary works may be required to prevent further damage and or make the structure safe so that the repair work can start.

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