The Orwell Bridge

10 May 2018
The Orwell Bridge is one of the largest post tensioned bridges in the UK and has eighteen spans of a total length of 1.3 kilometers. It carries the A14 over the River Orwell and links the major port of Felixstowe to England’s strategic road network. It is therefore vital for freight distribution across the UK and of huge importance to the people of Ipswich as, the main crossing over the Orwell Estuary on the town by-pass. Any closure of the bridge brings Ipswich to a stand still. It is also a structure of enormous engineering complexity and it has a Critical National Infrastructure status.

Amey Consulting provided industry leading asset management and design services for Highways England Area 6, including the Orwell Bridge.  Our solution involved data capture through automatic sensors installed throughout the bridge. We used this data in risk management focused research to advance our understanding of the bridge behaviour and ensuring safe and whole life cost effective operation of the asset. 

The active management solution included:

  • Structural condition (monitoring, inspection, assessment, maintenance and financial planning)
  • Operation procedures and protocols
  • Stakeholder interests including its high regional profile in the public eye
  • Security
  • Resilience
  • Health and safety

Highways England Project Sponsor and the Amey Orwell asset manager realised that capturing all the above within a coherent framework was key to an informed decision making system and robust management of the bridge. This elaborate framework, was detailed in the Orwell Bridge Management Plan (BMP) - a key live document. The BMP formed the backbone of the bridge management strategy, was used for monitoring, investigation and research to inform the most cost effective long term maintenance strategy and consequent funding needs.  The collaborative approach between Highways England and Amey Consulting for the strategic management of the Orwell Bridge, resulted in clear intervention plans (short/medium and long term), informed by a thorough data and research backed decision making framework.

Amey Consulting have been awarded the ICE Yorkshire and Humber Sir John Fowler Award for our work on the Orwell Bridge, in recognition of achievement, excellence and innovation in civil engineering.