Polcevera Viaduct, Genoa collapsed on 14th August 2018 making headlines around the world. 43 people lost their lives and the disruption is estimated to have cost the economy around €600 million. Since 2000 there have been 125 bridge collapses worldwide that have claimed at least one life, resulting in 982 fatalities and significant economic loss. Catastrophic bridge collapses occur too frequently even though, with hindsight and timely investment, most could have been predicted and prevented.

The human, financial and reputational costs of such incidents, which frequently make international news, are unacceptable by any reasonable measure. Can we be more successful in preventing them?

Responsible bridge owners have robust regimes in place to inspect and manage their bridges in line with prevailing good practice and yet catastrophes are seldom anticipated or, when they are, the risks are underestimated or ignored.

As bridge stocks continue to age, the likelihood and frequency of bridge collapse can only increase, along with the financial and reputational damage. It is therefore crucial that we find better ways of meeting the challenge.

Key Facts

Polcevera Viaduct, Genoa, collapsed 14 Aug 2018. 43 deaths. Cost of disruption €600m, cost of rebuilding €200m. After Polcevera, media reports stated the following:

  • Italy: 300 more bridges could be unsound
  • France: 840 bridges at risk of collapse
  • Germany: Only 12.5% of bridges in good condition

Over 65,000 structurally deficient bridges in USA (National Bridge Inventory 2018). Equivalent UK data is not collected.

UK bridge collapses since 2015:

  • Tadcaster Bridge, N Yorks (Dec 15)
  • Bell Bridge, Cumbria (Jan 16)
  • Pooley Bridge, Cumbria (Dec 15)
  • Keswick Path Bridge, Cumbria (Jan 16)
  • Eastham Bridge, Worcs (May 16)
  • M20 Footbridge (Aug 16)
  • Barrow-upon-Soar (Aug 16)
  • Laxey Shore, Isle of Man (Dec 15)
  • Skipton Bridge (Feb 18)
  • Grinton Moor (Jul 19)

Priority Areas for Development

  • Cradle to grave Bridge Management
  • International collaboration
  • Sensor technology to understand structural behaviour, performance and condition
  • Bridge and environmental monitoring and warning systems
  • Inspection techniques and training
  • New materials for repair and protection
  • NDT and forensic engineering techniques
  • Knowledge of previous bridge collapses, sharing of knowledge
  • Assessment techniques, understanding of collapse mechanisms and redundancy
  • Risk analysis and prioritisation
  • Understanding and prevention of scour damage
  • Data, statistics and analysis of UK bridge condition and performance