Arup Ventures backs development of new polymer modular bridge

28 July 2017 4 min. read
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Arup Ventures, the investment arm of the engineering consultancy, has aided the creation of a new glass-fibre reinforced polymer modular bridge. The innovative technology, developed by construction expert Mabey, was also part funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board. The new glass-fibre reinforced polymer modular bridge will be used in areas in where traditional steel torsion bridges are unable to tread.

Initially a general building supplies business, Mabey was founced in 1923 as Mabey & Johnson. By the 1940s the company was increasingly focused on the design and delivery of bridges, a heritage that has continued to this day, with an emphasis on non-mechanical construction equipment and services.

The company has remained innovative in its approach to supporting clients with modern and cross functional bridges. One of the latest offerings, based on a concept from engineering and consultancy firm Arup, is a post-tensioned bridge – that can be delivered to sites where heavy equipment can’t reach. The new type of bridge, whose development was part funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), goes by the name Pedesta.

Arup, mabey and RSSB

In order to support both commercial and military needs, the bridge is modular, with each module being 1 meter length, with each module able to be bolted together to form a complete bridge. The structure is built from a glass-fibre reinforced polymer, which makes it 70% lighter than steel, with up to 30 modules able to be connected in series. Each module can meanwhile be moved by a forklift, making them relatively easily transported to location.

Engineering consultancy Arup played a key role in the development of the new designed bridge through its ‘Arup Ventures’ programme; an initiative which supports company personnel to take an innovative idea or solution for the environment to the market – here, through Mabey and the RSSB. Arup are part of a growing professional services trend in this manner, as numerous consulting firms leverage venture capital wings, either seeking to make sizeable returns from their beneficiaries, or looking to extend their own service portfolio for more long-term profitability. Big Four professional service industry rivals EYDeloittePwC and KPMG each boast growing corporate investment schemes, with a host of competitors including McKinsey & Company and PA Consulting following suit.

Rebecca Stewart, an Associate at Arup, remarks about the new design, “We are focused on engineering solutions to make bridges more resilient and simpler to construct. This modular bridge is quick and easy to install, minimises disruption to the surrounding communities and significantly reduces ongoing maintenance costs. We can see this bridge being useful for a whole host of global applications – from rail footbridges to road and river spans. It is great to have partnered with Mabey and for them to have become our first licensed partner.”

Mabey Bridge CEO Michael Treacy says about the newly designed bridge solution, “There is always room for innovation in bridging, and we pride ourselves on pushing boundaries with new materials so we can safely build longer-lasting structures even faster. What we have developed from Arup’s concept will change the game for our customers who tell us cost and ease-of-use come first. This is a significant step in our ongoing mission to lead the future of modular bridging and we look forward to seeing the game-changing Pedesta make its UK debut.”