One-way Cleveland Bridge crossing for months to come.

Buried in another press release from B&NES regarding repairs to Cleveland Bridge is the fact that the temporary traffic regulation order is being extended for another six months. Although they had hoped to open it to two-way traffic – while repairs continued – they’ve been told this would be unsafe.

Traffic management is set to remain on the Grade 11* listed structure as investigations continue into what is possible to solve the complex engineering issues discovered during the agreed repairs.

The Temporary Traffic Regulation Order which prohibits HGVs from using the 200-year-old bridge but allows pedestrians, cyclists and cars to cross under signals is being extended following the discovery of hidden, unexpected, severe corrosion on a critical section of the bridge.

They’ve got to work out how best to deal with what is proving to be a ‘technical challenge’.

The issue is serious enough to risk structural failure of the bridge were it to reopen to all vehicles before repairs are carried out. However, Bath & North East Somerset Council has been assured there is no danger in keeping the bridge open under current traffic management.

Councillor Manda Rigby, cabinet member for Transport Services said: “In January contractors unearthed a complex engineering and safety-critical issue which reports show does not have a straightforward solution. Engineers need to be 100 percent certain any solution will not cause a structural failure on other sections of the bridge. This will take time to model and for this reason we are extending the temporary traffic regulation order for another six months. We had aimed to open the bridge to two-way car traffic during this period, but we have been informed by technical experts that this cannot be done safely.”

The severe corrosion was revealed when sections of concrete were removed from the hanger bars which support the main trusses of the bridge and are essential to maintaining its structural integrity. The bars are not commonly found in bridges and the engineering solution to repair them, or find an alternate fix, is proving a technical challenge as any solution will be bespoke, and there are few experts in this historic methodology.

The assessment is expected to be completed by the end of May and will inform how repair works progress. As a consequence, the traffic regulation order for the bridge will be extended for six months or until repairs to the bridge have been completed, if sooner.

Councillor Rigby added “We are really sorry for the inconvenience to people and business nearby and for those using the bridge, but this is a technical issue that is clearly going to take more time to resolve. Safety is our top priority and I therefore ask for people’s continued patience while we continue technical investigations into the next phase of work after we complete the phase we had agreed at the commencement of work.”

Other work on the bridge is continuing with the main concrete repairs to the deck and trusses – the initial scheme is due to be finished shortly with painting and surfacing works progressing through May and June.

While traffic restrictions are in place diversion routes on the A36 via South Gloucestershire are available on the council’s Cleveland Bridge webpage, alongside background information on the renovation project and the latest report.

1 Comment

  1. I am surprised(not!) at how un-expert the Council’s chosen ‘expert’ engineering consultants(WSP) were when they carried our their damage assessment of the Bridge back in 2019(?). If indeed “.. the hanger bars which support the main trusses of the bridge and are essential to maintaining its structural integrity..”, why didn’t WSP examine them first, before messing about with a roped survey of the trusses. Then they would have immediately discovered the “..severe corrosion (that) was revealed when sections of concrete were removed..”. The hanger bars are the most easily accessible part of the whole structure, requiring no scaffolding to be erected and no roped access. Yet they are the most important wrt structural integrity. Having found their perilously dangerous condition, they could have made a better informed decision as to whether to proceed with the Strengthening Works at all. They could have returned to the Dept for Transport and said “No can do, we need to maintain the 12 Tonne weight limit on this Grade2* Listed structure”.

    But, such was the Council’s unseemly and imprudent haste to force their own Listed Building Application through in Oct 2020(probably in order to secure the £3.5m Dept.-for-Transport funding), their Planning Committee (which, incidentally, is composed of B&NES Councillors and officers) approved their own engineer’s application which turned out to be based on a ‘Dodgy Dossier’. Well, I realise WSP hadn’t found any weapons of mass destruction under the bridge, but their masters, B&NES Council, have committed us to years of chaos and expense using ‘intelligence’ from a source which has turned out to be anything but reliable. Is it a coincidence that both Blair and Romero managed to force through their respective agendas when they were in power, by using Dodgy Dossiers. Is that how central and local governments operate these days?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that B&NES decision-making process seems to be more influenced by any ‘free’ money it can grab rather than by good, impartial and transparent judgement. They’re applying exactly the same decision-making process and motivation to CAZ, LTN’s, Ring of Steel, eScooters, new Bicycle Lanes and a plethora of their other initiatives, all funded by grants from Central Government, but which will not a hape-worth of difference to either the pollution or congestion we suffer in our City’s East-side residential areas. Of course, they will spin statistics to try and convince us of their effectiveness, but if the Cleveland Bridge saga is anything to go by ……
    B&NES have a few good people in their administration, competent, planful and pragmatic. But there’s something seriously wrong with its culture, and the degree of transparency their Planning and Highways Departments are willing to demonstrate. And their recent decision to insist on full scripts to be submitted prior to presenting at their meetings is a serious curtailment of Free Speech imho. I smell a whiff of Animal Farm in the Guildhall.

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