Our transport infrastructure has been built and expanded over centuries, from the 18th century canal network to railways in the 19th and the highway network in the last century. Our changing world - climate change, technological change, and increasing transport needs – places demands on our structures that were never envisaged and which stretch their capacity to the limit.

Our existing infrastructure is the foundation for economic development of the country. The challenge is to maintain this aging infrastructure as fit for purpose in the 21st Century, adapting to the changing world.

It is essential that we understand the impact of climate change, of rising water levels, increased flooding and consequent scour and changing environmental conditions. Scour is the greatest cause of bridge collapse.

With pressure on funding, increasing maintenance requirements necessitate innovation in understanding deterioration, and in strengthening and repairing structures. Emerging technologies offer opportunities for better value and performance of maintenance.

To avoid a future of failing and non-performing structures we need to grasp the challenge of extending their useful life into the 21st century and beyond.

Key Facts

  • The estimated value of Scotland’s Trunk Road structures maintenance backlog in 2018 was 12.5% of the asset value.
  • Closure of the Forth Crossing in December 2015 is estimated to have cost the economy over £1m per day.
  • Where practical, economic and environmentally desirable the largest abnormal loads should be moved by inland and/or coastal waters to reduce the impact caused by moving these loads by road
  • Network Rail own over 29,000 bridges of over 1000 different construction types. The majority are older than the design life of a modern bridge.

Priority Areas for Development

  • Intelligent bridges – sensor monitoring of condition, deterioration and maintenance needs
  • Smart repair materials – self healing, long life
  • Prioritised assessment and repair
  • Improved data collection and analysis
  • Predictive models of deterioration, risk and performance
  • Adapting bridges for transport technology – autonomous vehicles, alternative fuels, embedded sensor technology
  • Impact of climate change – flooding, scour
  • Advanced analysis for structural assessment
  • Understanding and learning from performance of existing materials