Traffic regulations extended on Cleveland Bridge due to ‘complex’ engineering issues

By Nick Batten on 3 May, 2022

Traffic management is set to remain on Bath’s Cleveland Bridge for another six months as investigations continue into what is possible to solve the complex engineering issues discovered during the agreed repairs to the Grade II* listed structure.

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.

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 corrosion of the truss hanger bars on Cleveland Bridge (Photo courtesy of B&NES Council)

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.