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Europe's First Advanced Composites Public Highway Bridge

13 October 2002

The opening of West Mill Bridge, Europe's first public highway advanced composites bridge, will take place on the second day of the Innovation in Construction conference in Oxford on the 29th October 2002.

Over 300 infrastructure owners, construction industry leaders and specialists in new construction materials and techniques throughout Europe will attend a two day conference entitled ‘Innovation in Construction’ in Oxford on the 28/29th October 2002. Speakers include UK Ministers/MP’s, key infrastructure owners such as Highways agency, Railtrack and London Underground, world-renowned research specialists and leading consulting engineers in Europe. The second day of the conference will focus on the opening of West Mill Bridge, Europe’s first public highways advanced composites bridge near Shrivenham in Oxfordshire.

The ‘Innovation in Construction’ conference is to be hosted by a European consortium that has developed an innovative advanced composites project called ASSET. The consortium, which is led by Mouchel, includes Swedish Skanska, Danish Fiberline Composites and Oxfordshire County Council.

ASSET (Advanced Structural Systems for Tomorrow’s Infrastructure) is a new and revolutionary primary load carrying structural profile, made out of glass and carbon fibre-reinforced polymer that is very strong and lightweight and can replace reinforced concrete or steel decks, and is a result of a four year, £2.9 million research project, which has been developed by a European consortium of seven partners and received £1.5 m of European Commission funding.

Speaking on behalf of Mouchel, Director of Advanced Engineering, Dr. Sam Luke said, “The ASSET project has been four years in development and the results have been highly successful. Mouchel is delighted to have lead and been part of the consortium that has developed such an innovative, important and versatile system. We are very pleased to have some very eminent speakers from industry and academia attending the conference and the response from delegates demonstrates that there is a real interest in innovative new technologies to assist in the development, management and maintenance of infrastructure assets.” The huge investment in terms of time, commitment, dedication and finance by all partners is creditable, and I would like to say a special thank you to all the members of the team who have contributed to this success.

West Mill Bridge will be the first public Highways Bridge in Western Europe to be made from advanced composite material and has been built on behalf of Oxfordshire County Council. Located near Shrivenham, the new bridge will replace the existing West Mill Bridge over the River Cole. Oxfordshire County Council’s Head of Bridges, Peter Brown commented, “We are very pleased to have been part of ASSET. The significant developments made over the last 4 years in ASSET have convinced us of the major potential this technology will have for large asset owners like ourselves in terms of speed of installation, reduced whole life costs, and long term durability. The strength and versatility of the system developed in ASSET gave us the confidence to replace West Mill Bridge with the products developed within the project. We have pioneered the use of new technologies in the County for many years and seen tangible benefits, and we will continue to look for opportunities in the future.”

Work on site commenced at the end of July 2002, starting with demolishing the old bridge, including the foundations and abutments. The span of the bridge has been increased with new abutments being constructed to take the new advanced composites materials deck.

Work on site is progressing well with the deck lifted into position last week with a mobile 200 tonne crane, from the temporary site factory at the side of the bridge where it was fabricated. The bridge will be opened to traffic following the official opening on 29th October 2002.

Henrik Thorning, Chief Executive of renowned Danish manufacturer, Fiberline Composites commented, “We have enjoyed our participation in the ASSET project. It was a major challenge for us as an SME to invest the large sums of time and money that we did into the tooling and additional process equipment that was required to produce such a complex profile. The technical capability of the profile that has been developed is a major boost for us, and having been associated with such a strong consortium, we are convinced that focused projects such as these with clear and tangible deliverables are very good for the development and success of technology in Europe. West Mill Bridge, we hope will be the first of many structures that will be built from the high quality ASSET profiles we have manufactured.”

The development, manufacture, testing and use of the ASSET Profile together with the building of West Mill Bridge were the core objectives of the project, which is part funded by the European Commission under the Materials Technologies Brite EuRam III. Mouchel’s advanced engineering team is responsible for analysis, design, optimisation of the ASSET profiles and for the design of West Mill Bridge, plus the production of design rules and specifications, leading European pultruder, Fiberline Composites manufactured the advanced composite materials and Skanska is responsible for building the bridge.