23 December 2015

BridgeWatch™ plays pivotal role.

James Fisher Strainstall’s state-of-the-art monitoring system, BridgeWatch™, plays pivotal role in reopening of Forth Road Bridge

  • James Fisher Strainstall rapidly redeploys engineers in response to critical transport infrastructure closure
  • Innovative structural health system installed on Forth Road Bridge in record time
  • BridgeWatch™ data supports decision to reopen bridge two weeks ahead of schedule

James Fisher Strainstall (JF Strainstall), part of James Fisher and Sons plc, provided a rapid response to sudden transport infrastructure closure by installing its state-of-the-art structural monitoring system, BridgeWatch™, onto the Forth Road Bridge in record time.

An essential transport link between Edinburgh and Fife, the Forth Road Bridge was closed to all traffic at midnight on 3 December 2015 after a crack was discovered in a truss under the carriageway, resulting in long delays as the holiday season approached.

JF Strainstall immediately mobilised a dedicated team of specialist engineers, who had been working close by on the Queensferry Crossing. Together with additional personnel, the team worked around the clock to provide specialist expertise and deploy the innovative BridgeWatch™ structural health monitoring system – a first for the Forth Road Bridge. By rapidly installing a number of sensors in record time, including strain, temperature and tilt, the system delivered crucial monitoring and engineering information to support bridge operator Amey’s planned testing schedule and help ensure the bridge was reopened without delay.

Testing was completed on Saturday over five hours, with the BridgeWatch™ system providing real-time information on the effects of wind and traffic loading on the integrity of the structure. This data, provided to the bridge’s control room, supported the decision to open the bridge almost two weeks earlier than officials had originally stated.

Mark Arndt, Chartered Engineer and Amey’s Account Director for the Forth Road Bridge said:

“We’ve been working closely with the JF Strainstall team over the past few weeks to install structural monitoring at the recently repaired truss end link. This technology has provided finite detail on the structural behaviour of the bridge and enabled us to recommend opening the bridge to 90% of all traffic.”

Ian Salter, project manager at JF Strainstall, explained:

“As soon as we were approached by Amey to apply our monitoring system to the existing bridge, we diverted a team of engineers as fast as possible to support the maintenance work of the closed Forth Road Bridge. The team worked non-stop to get the system installed and functioning to ensure monitored parameters were available to Amey for the scheduled load test of the repair. The data provided enabled Amey, and supporting bridge consultants, to evaluate the structural response during a series of specific load tests and gain an understanding of the condition of the bridge to the point where they had the confidence to reopen the bridge before Christmas.”

As the original sensors continue to provide monitoring data, additional sensors will be installed during a second phase to monitor other critical points of the bridge for on-going monitoring and asset management support. BridgeWatch™ brings together a highly sophisticated toolbox of sensors, data acquisition equipment and JF Strainstall’s Smart Asset Management (SAM)™ software, to provide constant smart data monitoring in real-time, giving potentially significant cost savings. A good understanding of the behaviour of the structure allows for the efficient and timely programming of maintenance activities. The flexibility of the system allows engineers to install additional sensors and integrate information from legacy or external systems quickly without the need for a complete system redesign.

The Managing Director of JF Strainstall, Rob Bulter, said that:

“The dedication, knowledge and professionalism of the team demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the health, safety and availability of our customers’ assets through the application of our innovative structural health monitoring system”

BridgeWatch™ is currently being installed in a number of locations including the new Queensferry Crossing, which is set to become a world leader in using structural health monitoring systems to actively support its management, thanks to JF Strainstall’s state-of-the-art system. The advanced analytical processing capability allows BridgeWatch™ to be used as a preventative maintenance tool rather than merely a reactive diagnostic tool.

Andrew Scullion, JF Strainstall's systems engineer, explained:

“The system is being fully integrated into the life management of the structure. It is a proactive, preventative form of maintenance monitoring and as such it is breaking into new ground, opening up huge potential for all structural health management”.