Image: Instrumented concrete rail bridge (Staffordshire Alliance project)
The joint Staffordshire Alliance venture, comprising Laing O'Rourke, Network Rail, Atkins and VolkerRail, included collaboration with CSIC from the start of the project to deploy fibre optic sensors in order to deliver the most comprehensively instrumented new rail bridges in the UK.
CSIC has implemented the monitoring systems in two of the 11 new bridges being constructed as part of this major improvement programme: a pre-stressed concrete girder bridge and a steel composite girder bridge, the latter forming the new flyover that removes a critical bottleneck at Norton Bridge by segregating intercity, commuter and freight traffic. With the advent of innovative and robust structural monitoring systems, smarter, more objective and reliable performance data can be collected from the beginning of a structure’s life.
The Staffordshire Alliance team recently handed over the £250m upgrade to the West Coast Main Line, including 10 kilometres of new line, under budget and over a year ahead of schedule. Laing O'Rourke, Network Rail and Atkins are all CSIC Industry Partners. The Staffordshire Alliance project has been recognised as leading the way in innovation and showing that the alliance model has much to offer large infrastructure projects.
Liam Butler, Research Associate at CSIC, said: “This project represents the first time new rail bridges have been instrumented in such detail to understand their structural behaviour from the moment they are created. We hope that the findings of this work will provide valuable feedback for the design of future large scale infrastructure projects and could lead to more economic designs and more efficient asset management strategies.”
Ian Johnson, Alliance Manager, Staffordshire Alliance, said: “The Alliance has had a real focus on innovation throughout, with a dedicated Innovation Manager appointed to the Alliance Management Team. This gave the project the drive to innovate and effectively manage ideas from the start through to implementation. Every idea and experience was captured, so there is a wealth of information for other projects to draw on to embed best practice in the future.”
The project was the first in the UK to be established as a 'pure alliance', with all partners working together on equal terms in shared office locations, resulting in a close and highly efficient team ethos and close relationship. This successful operating model is now considered by many to be the blueprint for future infrastructure projects.
John Wilkinson, Business Unit Leader, Infrastructure, at Laing O’Rourke, said: "The operational benefits of all partners working together to share common goals have proved to be really successful on the Staffordshire Alliance. Combined with innovative construction techniques such as offsite manufacturing and digital design, we have delivered this project meeting sensitive environmental requirements well ahead of schedule, under budget, and vitally, with reduced disruption to the travelling public and our neighbours in the communities we work alongside."