Early involvement pays off for historic bridge works

04/01/2021
Chris Ames

Engineering specialist Spencer Group is set to begin refurbishment work on one of the world’s most historic suspension bridges.

It will carry out major works to remove, replace and then resurface almost all of the footway panels on the approach spans on both sides of the Grade I listed Menai Suspension Bridge, which had the longest span in the world (176m) when it opened in 1826

Crossing the Menai Strait between Anglesey and mainland North Wales, it is the second oldest operational vehicular suspension bridge in the world and was designed by prolific road, bridge and canal builder Thomas Telford.

The crossing was the first fixed connection from Anglesey to the Welsh mainland, carrying road and pedestrian traffic. It is now joined by the neighbouring Britannia Bridge, which carries rail and road vehicles. Working on behalf of client UK Highways A55 Ltd, Spencer Group will begin the works on the 417m-long structure early this month. The project is estimated to run for 23 weeks.

Luke Fisher, sector lead for bridges and structures, said: ‘The Menai Suspension Bridge is one of the most famous bridges in the world and is another prestigious project to add to our portfolio.

‘Early contractor involvement on the Menai Suspension Bridge project meant we began working with UK Highways A55 Ltd three months before we were awarded the contract, building a strong working relationship with the client and helping to establish the most efficient methodology for the works.’

The Menai Strait is protected as a Special Site of Scientific Interest and a wetland area of international importance area under the Ramsar Convention. Because of these environmental protections, Spencer Group has developed specific measures to contain all construction work and materials fully on the bridge and avoid any spillage into the water below.

Mr Fisher added: ‘The Menai Suspension Bridge is covered by highly stringent environmental constraints and, of course, it’s of paramount importance that we take the greatest care with the fabric of this iconic structure.

‘We’re used to working within extremely tight restrictions on our bridge projects, but this is an exceptionally strict example. It’s just another challenge that we will overcome as we deliver the works.’

The Spencer Group said its team will use complex rope access methods, often operating over the side and underneath the bridge deck, 30m above the Menai Strait.

Kerry Evans, operations manager at UK Highways A55 Ltd, said: ‘The early engagement with Spencer Group provided us with workable options to carry out the remedial works. Those early conversations are vital for a client to understand and appreciate the complexity of a project and the path through to delivery.

‘Spencer Group has been instrumental in developing the strategy to carry out the works and the early engagement provided the client and designer with insights into situations not previously considered.’

Each footway of the Menai Suspension Bridge will be closed in turn while work takes place, with pedestrians using the opposite path during this time. Traffic will be reduced to one lane from 9am to 3pm and two-way traffic signals will be in place for the duration of the work.

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