Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison

Proceedings of the Institution Civil Engineers Forensic Engineering 165 February 2012 Issue FE1 Pages 39–52 Paper 1000016 Received 19/12/2010 Accepted 22/07/2011 Keywords: bridges/failures/maintenance & inspection

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Scour failure of bridges
Brian Maddison CEng, MICE Independent Civil Engineering Consultant, Former Engineering Director of Bridgeway Consulting Limited, Nottingham, UK

In recent years there have been several bridge collapses in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland that have been caused by scour. Towns in the north west of England have been cut off and loss of life occurred. Major railway lines have been closed for extended periods. Although scour is basically the removal of bed material due to flowing water, it has a number of different causes and takes different forms. The paper describes the different forms of scour and looks at a number of case studies to illustrate the different ways in which scour has caused structures to collapse or require protection. The case studies are of railway bridges and are drawn from official investigation reports and underwater examinations carried out by the author. The paper concludes by illustrating ways in which failures due to scour could be avoided by the employment of good bridge management systems.



Bridge failures are fortunately rare, but every year the pages of New Civil Engineer contain details of a collapse that has occurred somewhere in the world. In many cases these collapses could have been avoided by an adequate bridge management regime that included good inspection, assessment and maintenance procedures. One specific type of failure that from time to time causes sudden catastrophic collapse of bridges is the undermining of foundations due to bed scour. Recent examples of collapse due to bed scour are included in this paper and others can be found in the reference documents listed. Bed scour is the transport of bed material by the flow of water and is present to some degree where the river bed or seabed is formed of granular material. Scour increases as flow rates increase and therefore the actual collapse of structures due to scour often occurs during periods of extreme flow, either due to flooding or exceptional tides. Of course, this is exactly the time that direct observation of the foundations of a structure is not possible and therefore a collapse may be put down to an ‘act of God’. A good inspection regime that includes bed measurement and engineering analysis can find indications of developing scour before the situation becomes critical. If this is followed up with well-designed remedial works, undermining of the structure, even in extreme conditions, may be prevented. The basic relationship between flow quantity Q, velocity V and cross-sectional area A is expressed by the equation Q 5 VA. Thus, velocity increases as the flow quantity increases or the available cross-sectional area of the watercourse reduces. The velocity will determine whether bed material of a particular particle size will be transported. This paper essentially deals

with practical aspects of scour that can be observed during examination. For a full understanding of scour, it is recommended that the work of May et al. (2002) is referred to. Further insight can also be gained from the works of Hoffmaans and Verheij (1997), Hamill (1999) and Melville and Coleman (2000). Different types of scour are dealt with and illustrated with actual examples, including recent bridge collapses as well as cases where developing scour problems have been found during inspection. The paper draws on the author’s own experience as an engineer/diver in carrying out underwater inspections and developing an underwater inspection regime for British Rail. The cost of one single bridge failure can be immense in terms of disruption to road or rail traffic and even loss of life as well as in purely monetary terms. A small enhancement to the inspection and maintenance regimes for vulnerable bridges can prevent many costly failures.


What is scour?

Bed scour is a very simple concept but takes a number of different forms. It may be a natural occurrence or due to manmade changes to a river.


Channel instability (also referred to as natural scour)

All scour is the result of the transportation of bed material by the watercourse. Channel instability is a natural phenomenon and is the result of the erosion and deposition of bed material, which occurs gradually under normal conditions or very quickly during floods. Rivers that transport considerable amounts of bed material are most prone to scour and channel instability. These include sand-bed rivers and upland gravel bed rivers. The natural changes that occur will also be affected

(a) Channel contraction. Changes in section will occur as bed material is transported along the river.2 Contraction scour Distance downstream A local reduction in the width of the river can cause a general lowering of the bed level by decreasing the cross-sectional area of the river and increasing flow velocity. Longitudinal section of river bed Bridge pier built in area of deposition Deposition Deposition of sediment Erosion River bed Bridge pier becomes undermined when river bed changes and deposition changes to erosion Figure 1. etc. In flood plains. erosion will cause a river to become sinuous. Natural raising of the river bed Figure 4. Areas of deposition will change to areas of erosion. Local increase in sediment supply Figure 3. The banks of a river on the outside of curves will erode and silt will be deposited on the inside of curves where flows are slower. the route of the main river will change over years or. Local reduction in sediment supply Bed erosion (scour) River bed Figure 2. exceptional rainfall and increased runoff due to deforestation or urbanisation. A similar effect can also be caused when river levels rise to above the soffit of a bridge or other obstruction. Bridge pier undermined by natural bed changes 40 . Thus. affecting the stability of any structure founded on that bed (see Figures 1 to 3). and the river bed level will be lowered accordingly. The normal channel of the river is reduced at a bridge by the presence of piers. The river channel may change both in plan and longitudinal section. Spans of a bridge originally designed to be for flood-relief purposes only may eventually become the main river spans and often the piers involved will be founded at a shallower depth than those of the original river spans (Figure 6). abutments extending into the channel and/or training walls. either naturally or as a result of artificial actions. dramatically in times of flood (Figure 5). The same actions that cause changes in the longitudinal section of a river will also cause changes in the plan. bed shear stress and frequency of bed movement. Natural lowering of the river bed Depositing phase Eroding phase Stable Channel slope 2. The effect of channel instability on a bridge or waterside structure may be to undermine foundations and direct flows towards or behind the structure (Figure 4). occasionally.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison by a large number of other actions that affect river flows: these include the placement or removal of artificial obstructions such as weirs or training walls. Scour may occur in three ways.

Typically this will occur when a railway embankment is built across a flood plain. the velocity will be greater than if the height of the water was not restrained by the soffit. Flood plain and estuary contraction. road bridges and similar structures. As the level rises higher above the soffit. The situation can be worsened by the presence of heavy debris in the water. the result will be an overall lowering of the bed level at the bridge. In this situation. When the increase in flow velocity through a bridge opening because of channel contraction becomes sufficient to transport bed material. (c) Surcharging. the head of water increases the velocity. The same effect happens when embankments are constructed across tidal estuaries (Figure 7). Water will flow though the bridge opening. runoff from the flood plain is channelled through a bridge opening with resultant increase in flow velocity as the same quantity of flood water is channelled through a relatively small crosssectional area. as well as contributing to scour in the main channel. flood water will seek any opening in the flood bank and. Changes to rivers in plan (b) (Figure 7). scour may occur at flood-relief arches. probably across the full width of the river. Using the equation Q 5 VA.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Original course Meander River meanders due to erosion Original course Straightened Bends are straightened due to deposition Slow-moving river becomes braded Figure 5. 41 . which has a reduced cross-section not only due to the available width of the river but also limited by the height of the soffit. In times of flood. surcharging will occur. Where the soffit of a bridge is lower than high water level during a flood period.

Melville and Coleman. Scour may also occur at ‘downstream’ ends of river piers when there is significant backflow. Contraction scour 2. This process is progressive and can continue until the invert breaks back to the bridge and the piers become undermined (Figure 9). Typically. as the scour develops. The mechanics of this action have been carefully studied by hydraulics institutions in Britain. If the pier is not aligned with the flow. the direction of flow is directed downwards causing material to be removed from the bed at this point. May et al. In tidal waters. Bridge piers at risk due to changes in the course of the river Flood plain although this will depend on variations in the bed material. making the scour difficult to detect. Local scour is a consequence of the presence of a structure in a watercourse. 2002. This effect may be increased by the addition of flood plain contraction.. Melville and Coleman (2000) and May et al. America and Europe and the general result is as shown in Figure 8. 1997. scour will start to develop at the downstream end of an invert and. Contraction scour may be observed after flooding has ceased or silt may be deposited as the river slows. The material removed from this area will be deposited behind the pier as eddies form and the flow slows. Hoffmaans and Verheij. The turbulence caused as water flows by a pier will generally cause an uplifting effect at the nose. A particular problem for harbour walls can be the use of side-thrusters that are often directed at the walls in close proximity.3 Local scour occur along the side of the pier that faces the flow. Local scour also occurs to weirs and protection inverts that cross a watercourse. The shape of local scour shown in Figure 8 may be modified by many factors. The rapid movement of water caused by boat propellers and water jet engines can also cause scour. (2002) all provide more detailed information. 2000). The scour then gets under the invert and the trailing edge of the invert breaks off. the weir effect increases until a deep hole develops. Details of some of the studies are shown in the literature (Hamill. Most significant among these will be the shape of the nose of the pier and the direction of flow relative to the pier. resulting in scour at both ends of a pier. 1999.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Embankment Flood plain River spans Flood plain Viaduct at time of construction Training wall Contracted flood plain width Contracted river width Area of bed lowering River flow Foundations exposed and undermined River spans Viaduct after change of river position Flood plain Embankment Figure 6. local scour will 42 . resulting in erosion of the bed. scour may occur on both ebb and flow of the tide. As the water strikes the nose of the pier. Hamill (1999). Figure 7.

This type of scour may be very difficult to detect. By the time a diver is sent down to inspect the pier. At the bridge. This often occurs at piers in relatively low flows and is the simple removal of bed material by flowing water. the flow will have reduced and the bed stabilised at a much higher level than the maximum scour level during flood. At about 07:15. some of the conclusions of which were as follows. Local scour to a pier 2. The results of this survey and other investigations concluded that the collapse was caused by scour to the downstream end of pier 3 that undermined the foundations. making a base for the bridge foundations within the cofferdam of ‘cemented river gravel’ and then placing stone foundation slabs. There was a ‘re-circulating zone’ or eddy at the downstream end of pier 3. Upstream of a bridge. (a) Clear water scour. The investigations undertaken included the following. (i) (b) Overall. indicating major live bed scour with both erosion and deposition at the bridge. channel instability and live bed scour On 19 October 1987. (a) The engineers responsible for the safety of the bridge lacked thorough knowledge of the complex behaviours of rivers such as the Towy. The survey showed that the pier was originally constructed by driving timber piles to form a cofferdam. Pier Nominal bed level Scour hole Foundations (a) Elevation Scour hole Pier Deposition of silt (b) Flow Plain (c) Figure 8. Evidence taken from British Rail that indicated that the depth and type of construction of the foundations of the bridge were not known and had not been considered when repairs were undertaken to the piers some 7 years previously. The results of the investigation into the Glanrhyd collapse was the start of a complete review of scour risk to railway bridges in the UK. scour holes formed remain present when flows subside and can be seen during underwater inspection. 2009).1 Case studies and investigations Glanrhyd 1987: local scour. A study of the river flow was carried out by Hydraulics Research Limited. (iii) The depth of any anticipated scour at pier 3 could have been between 0?75 and 2?2 m. Therefore. 3. the bed under a pier foundation will become fluid as material is constantly removed and replaced. bed material is removed and transported away but no material from upstream is deposited at the same time. Evidence taken from Welsh Water Authority staff who stated that the bed levels of the river in the vicinity of the bridge changed from year to year and that a gravel bank near the bridge was an intermittent and changing feature.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison of the accident was published by the railway inspectorate (DfT. A detailed underwater survey of the remaining parts of the damaged piers undertaken by a diving team led by a chartered civil engineer. allowing the pier to settle and eventually break its back (Figure 10). the water is not transporting significant amounts of bed material (hence the term clear water). the bridge carrying the Central Wales line over the River Towy collapsed during a period of heavy rain and flooding. it seems that local scour at the downstream end of pier 3 was the main cause of the collapse. (ii) Up to 17 000 t of sediment may have passed the bridge during the 3 h of peak flows. Live bed scour is the continuous erosion and deposition of bed material during periods of flooding. a passenger train ran on to the bridge and fell into the swollen river. but elements of the report suggest that channel instability may also have been a factor. In its worst case. The conclusions drawn included the following. Many of the timber piles were missing and this had allowed the undermining to progress below the foundation slabs. Foundation depths were not known.4 Scour sub-divisions (d) All three types of scour may be sub-divided into two types. Remedial works previously carried out to defective bridge piers increased the likelihood of scour damage because the piers were widened and the shape of the cutwaters was changed. 43 3. Four people died. The full report (b) (c) .

This did not involve loss of life but severed the only railway that runs north from Inverness for many months. a member of the public. This made it difficult for divers to find it during routine inspections. arch bridges are inherently strong in compression and even though the arch was severely damaged. A completely new bridge had to be built. trains had been passing over the bridge without incident. all rail traffic was diverted onto the track that was not affected by the damage until temporary supports could be installed. However.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Pier Flow Bed level Foundations Stage 1 _ as constructed Invert Pier Minor scour to upstream face Flow Invert Foundations Stage 2 _ scour development Major scour hole develops at downstream end Pier Leading edge of invert undermined Flow Invert Foundations Stage 3 _ damage to invert Downstrean edge of invert collapses into scour hole Pier Leading edge of invert undermined Flow Invert Foundations Stage 4 _ pier undermined Downstream edge of invert collapses and scour undermines pier Figure 9. collapse of the railway bridge (Figure 11). walking along the bank of the River Rother near Beighton (South Yorkshire) reported a 44 .2 Beighton 2003: contraction scour In 2003. (a) The incident was reported in the summer months but it is likely that the scour occurred during flooding in the 3. It was found that the pier and arch of one span on the bridge had partially collapsed. Detailed underwater inspections and investigations were undertaken and the following information was ascertained. Fortunately. there was another major railway bridge collapse at Inverness. Just 2 years later. again due to scour. Progressive collapse of invert (d) The scour was probably live bed scour with the scour hole refilling with sand/gravel as flows subsided.

an extensive scour hole had developed. As a consequence of the shallower foundations. pier 3 (b) (c) previous winter. Upstream face of River Rother bridge From the above information it was concluded that the most likely cause of the undermining was due to contraction scour during a period when the river was surcharging. The arch above also partially collapsed. Glanrhyd. the width of the river is reduced by the piers of the bridge and 45 . Side spans of the bridge had become silted up. A detailed survey of the collapsed structure and the surrounding river bed found that the bed of the river under the bridge was composed of a thin layer of clay (approximately 150 mm) overlaying sand and gravel.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Remains of timber cofferdam Upstream section pier 3 Downstream Water level Random pier masonry Bed level on pier Toe level of cofferdam Undermining beneath pier present Downstream half of pier part buried in sand deposition Bed level 1 m from pier edge Figure 10. Previous underwater reports showed that there was no evidence of a distinct scour hole although the bed was very slightly lower at this location. The scour hole was deepest at the construction joint between upstream and centre parts of the pier. Figure 11. There is no public footpath under the bridge so visits by the public are rare and the underside of the bridge cannot be seen from the railway line. reducing their use as flood-relief spans and increasing the likelihood of contraction scour. From the point where the clay was found to be missing and the gravel was exposed. the clay layer had been damaged. However. At the bridge. The bridge was constructed in three parts at different times and with slightly different forms of construction (Figure 12). Local information provided by members of the public and railway staff indicated that in times of flood. the soffit level of the bridge dropped by about 300 mm. water levels were seen to rise above the upstream soffit level. At the point where the scour occurred. the centre part of the pier was undermined by the scour and had collapsed into the scour hole. (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) There were also some indications on the bank to support this. The foundations of the centre part of the pier were about 300 mm higher than the upstream and downstream parts (Figure 13).

1990: scour caused by bed lowering and ship propellers Holyhead harbour was developed by the London and North Western railway over many years as their main port for 46 . 3. which was constructed of stone masonry. Furthermore. River Rother Bridge plan at river level the silted-up side spans. Following a detailed underwater examination. creating a funnelling effect and increasing the head of water.3 Holyhead c. which remained intact. the available cross-sectional area A is further constricted when compared with the area of the open channel clear of the bridge. Anecdotal evidence was provided by one of the divers who had carried out this operation using explosives. One part of the harbour was known as the cattle dock and. the velocity V increased. It would appear that as ships became larger and made more use of bow thrusters. the shelf was somewhat irregular in shape. the soffit of the bridge dropped. Furthermore. This shelf was showing signs of erosion. the granular material below would quickly scour away and the clay layer would be progressively removed by the flow. because explosives had been used. The scour hole was sufficiently deep to undermine the centre part of the pier but did not reach the level of the foundations of the upstream or downstream parts of the pier. In January 1990 the dock wall collapsed. As the same quantity Q of water sought to pass through the restriction. The operation had been successful but had left some of the harbour walls founded on a shelf of rock about 500 mm above the bed of the harbour. British Rail took over the port upon nationalisation and further developments took place. was used for the import of cattle. once it was breached. scour occurred at the base of the wall until a section slid off the shelf and into the harbour. as the name suggests. at the time of the collapse it was founded on a narrow shelf of rock above bed level (Figure 15). By 1990. at the point where the scour occurred. evidence indicated that the wall. resulting in bed scour. but it had certainly been performing this function prior to the incident. Whether or not the clay layer on the bed of the river was natural or installed as an anti-scour measure is unclear. The collapsed section of pier was eventually capped off and the adjacent arches replaced with concrete beams (Figure 14). ferries to the Republic of Ireland. However. had been built off the granite bed of the harbour.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Flow Construction joint Abutment P i e r P i e r Scour P i e r P i e r Abutment Construction joint _ soffit lowers River Rother Figure 12. Investigations revealed that the bed level of the harbour had been lowered many years prior to the incident to accommodate larger vessels. However. During periods of flood when the height of the river is above the level of the arch soffit. the trade in live cattle had ceased and the dock was used for the temporary berthing of ferries that were awaiting repair or their next duty.

River Rother Bridge 3. 2010). The incident was first reported at 22:03 when the driver of a train crossing the bridge reported a dip in the track. In August. The investigations revealed that the abutment collapsed due to scour and a number of factors were involved (DfT. Core drilling carried out in 1991 showed the east abutment to be founded at 0?65 m below river bed level while the west abutment was 1?5 m below bed level. which was constructed later (in 1858). The incident was investigated and it was found that the east abutment at the upstream end of the bridge had collapsed into the river (Figure 16). making it vulnerable to scour.4 Feltham 2009: scour caused by obstruction of the river flow (a) On 14 November 2009. On 28 October. an Environmental Agency inspector saw a major blockage of the watercourse (Figure 18). a member of the public took a photograph showing the east span of the bridge to be obstructed by floating debris. 47 . a small railway bridge carrying the Windsor to London (Waterloo) line over the River Crane collapsed.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Approximate water level during flood periods Collapsing pier Soffit level of centre and downstream arches Water level at time of inspection Foundation level of centre arch Granular bed below clay Scour hole Thin clay layer Foundations of upstream arch Section through upstream arch Centre arch Scour hole Change in soffit level Upstream arch Part plan of affected arch Figure 13. taking with it a part of the arch and leaving the railway track suspended above a void (Figure 17). Foundations of this abutment were shallower than the west abutment. (b) (c) The abutment that collapsed was the original abutment constructed in 1848. The shape of the river channel directed the flow towards the east abutment.

The conclusions of the investigations were that the abutment was already vulnerable to scour because it was on the outside of a bend of the river and had substantially shallower foundations that other parts of the structure. track unsupported Rubble fill Possible wash out of fill Original harbour bed level Bed level following blasting Rock bed Figure 15. 5?5 m (65%) of the abutment’s length was found to be unsupported where the material below the foundations had been removed by scour. River Crane bridge. debris blockage prior to collapse 48 . The debris in Concrete slab Masonry wall Figure 17. River Rother bridge. collapsed centre pier removed At the time of the collapse. Cross-section through Holyhead harbour wall prior to collapse Figure 18. River Crane bridge.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Figure 16. collapsed abutment Figure 14. River Crane bridge.

Contacts with the local drainage authority were made and it transpired that a drainage and flood-relief scheme had been undertaken. The Great Central Line was not built until about 40 years after other main lines in the country. The bed at this point was over 4 m lower than the average bed level. during the course of routine underwater inspections. 3. The pattern of scour was complex and a full contour plan of the bed was produced in order to fully understand the situation. each of which consisted of concrete bored piles that were unlined below ground but extended above bed level within pre-cast concrete rings. Pier 2 Flow Bed level Scour hole Void Loose stones lying on bed Stones moved Figure 19. this was found to be puzzling until it was realised that. The worst area of scour was in fact immediately downstream of the bridge on the outside of the bend in the river. When inspected. the concrete of the piles was uneven and contained inclusions of large gravel indicating that they had originally been underground.5 Cefyn viaduct: local scour Situated on the Welsh borders near Wrexham. Cefyn viaduct These results were confirmed by divers who took detailed measurements of the piles. fortunately. At first. Investigations showed that there was no local scour but that the level of the river bed was consistently low for a significant distance away from the bridge and that there were signs that dredging had taken place. the civil engineering is of the highest standard and the foundations of their structures are generally large and deep. This railway viaduct. Steel sheet piling has now been driven around the pier and abutment to stabilise the structure. 49 . the piles were cast within concrete rings. undermining had not taken place. it had not extended far below the main body of the pier and repairs were able to be made. fortunately. The viaduct is located just downstream of a weir and is subject to fast flows during flood periods. During the course of a three-yearly underwater inspection.7 Staythorpe: changes to the course of the river Staythorpe viaduct is a good example of how the exact amount of bed scour can be detected by ‘forensic engineering’. However. One span of the bridge crosses a farm track and is over 1000 mm above the bed of the river in the other span. it was found that the foundations of the south abutment and pier were exposed. carrying the Nottingham to Lincoln line over the River Trent near Staythorpe power station. it was discovered that the main flow of the river was dividing and that a gravel bank had built up in the centre of the river. 3. It is a major multi-span masonry arch viaduct. below this layer. The bottom of the foundations could be seen but. the former Great Central Main line to London crosses a small watercourse known as Fairham brook. The risk was not only of undermining but of the pier sliding sideways because of lack of horizontal resistance to the forces transmitted from the farm track. Up to 2 m of scour was present at the bridge itself. Some 15 years later. divers found that the pier of this two-span bridge was in danger of collapse due to deepening of the river bed (Figure 20). They were able to dive under a layer of concrete that extended between the piles.6 Ruddington: scour caused by dredging South of Ruddington in Nottinghamshire.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison the river then caused river flow to be channelled directly towards the abutments and the scour occurred during a period of high river flows. Above the layer. Cefyn viaduct carries the railway across a wide valley and the River Dee. putting the bridge at risk. had been rebuilt in 1973 and new piers were constructed. There was no indication of contraction scour and the damage had been caused by a typical form of local scour that had removed bed material from below the upstream foundations and caused the collapse of the cutwater though. Although not carried out at the bridge itself. it was found that the pier located in the river was severely undermined by local scour. dredging of the watercourse had caused the bed levels at the bridge to be lowered by 1000 mm. when inspected. 3. The scour could have been prevented by the provision of adequate bed protection (Figure 19). This viaduct is a major piece of Victorian engineering and a collapse would have been a catastrophe.

This viaduct carries the main line between Dublin and Belfast. The undermining continued in the manner shown in Figure 9 until the invert between piers 4 and 5 collapsed. Ruddington Bridge: bed scour due to dredging Fortunately. Concrete spillage Steel trestle Concrete pile cap Pre-cast concrete rings 3. This causeway was maintained in a fair condition for over 100 years by a regular regime of replenishment of the stones. although during that period the causeway elongated seaward due to migration of the stones. a major grouting scheme was undertaken to fill voids in the weir. The grouted layer. a thorough investigation proved that there was no need to take emergency action. This scheme was reasonably successful but more stones were discharged to fill scour holes on a number of occasions up until 1996.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Pier Abutment Farm track Water level Original bed level Abutment Foundation River bed Timber piles Figure 20. The incident demonstrated the benefit of deep piled foundations for river bridges and the value of retaining as-built information. this became undermined. at which time the scour began to undermine pier 4 until it failed. which was about 1500 mm thick. However. A hydraulic model of the bridge was built to investigate the failure mechanism.8 Malahide: failure of causeway and protection apron 2m Bed level at time of construction Exposed concrete piles On 21 August 2009. the original piling logs had been retained as part of the as-built information for the viaduct and these showed that the piles extended about 9 m below the original bed level so the 2 m of scour could be reviewed in that context (Figure 21). In 1967–1968. Staythorpe Bridge pier . The collapse was reported by the driver of a train that passed over the damaged viaduct but fortunately crossed immediately before complete collapse occurred. acted as an invert but. repairs were subsequently carried out both to restrict further scour and to provide protection to the exposed piles. 2010). In this case. Detailed investigations were able to prove that the masonry piers of the viaduct were built on top of a stone causeway that acted as a weir (RAIU. pier number 4 of Malahide viaduct collapsed into the estuary (Figure 22). 50 Bed level Concrete piles below bed Figure 21. as scour occurred at the seaward side of the causeway on the ebb tides.

for example. the investigation report (RAIU. When all such data was in the form of drawings and paper records it is perhaps understandable that it was not reviewed after every examination. Conclusions What conclusions can be drawn from the investigations into scour problems? Firstly. In the case of Staythorpe. Hamill L (1999) Bridge Hydraulics. If these are not available from ‘as-built’ drawings. the causes of the collapse become clear quite quickly to the team carrying out the forensic investigations. London. DfT. Carry out a review of the inspection reports. Railway Investigation Branch. (c) Finally. it is essential that the Glanrhyd Bridge on 19th October 1987 in the Western Region of British Railways. 51 . In the case of the Malahide viaduct. Ackers JC and Kirby AM (2002) Manual on Scour at Bridges and Other Hydraulic Structures. The results should show changes in time (by comparisons with previous soundings) and geographical changes. However. Whilst major anti-scour works such as steel sheet piling will of course be correctly designed. This has been seen to result in too small stones being placed and these usually end up some distance downstream after the first flood. collapses could be avoided. two spans collapsed 4. it is noticeable that when a bridge collapses due to scour. computers now make it easy to rectify this problem by taking the following steps. and incorrectly assumed that the structure was founded on bedrock… at the time of the accident. See www. E & FN Spon. [they] were unaware of the routine discharge of stones along the viaduct as this process was not formally recorded. If the same effort could be put into bridge management for further details (accessed 02/09/ 2011). REFERENCES DfT (Department of Transport) (2009) Report on the Collapse of Despite this statement. simple tasks such as filling scour holes are sometimes left to local teams to carry out without any design input. CIRIA. ensure that it becomes routine to consider it when looking at underwater reports and scour data. Rotterdam. Hoffmaans GJCM and Verheij HJ (1997) Scour Manual. 17/2010. London.raib. London. 2010) states: The dearth of documents available [to the responsible engineers] meant they were not fully aware of the construction of the Malahide Viaduct. Their report includes original drawings of the viaduct and details of recent remedial works. Although it is often thought prudent to carry out detailed hydrological investigations. Balkema. information made available to staff carrying out the examination of underwater structures is often incomplete. knowledge of the structures concerned was inadequate. The latter will indicate if bed levels at the bridge are lower than might be expected when compared with upstream levels and will also show any migration of the main channel. These are routinely taken at each underwater inspection but for them to really predict the likelihood of a bridge being affected by scour then the data should be well handled. it is important that repairs to scoured river beds and scour protection works are not carried out without proper engineering for further details (accessed 02/09/2011). record and have available to the examining team full details of foundation depths. it did not take investigators long to discover a wealth of information about the structure. Had this information been made available to the railway engineers. (a) Establish. Secondly. Report no. May RWP. Once this information is available. (b) Figure 22. it is noticeable that on a number of occasions. See www. Develop a more sophisticated way of reviewing river bed soundings. Derby. HMSO. core drilling may be required. the collapse could have been averted.Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison engineer has all known information about the bridge available. only by plotting bed contours over a significant length of the river could the pattern of scour be established. for instance. Malahide viaduct. and there was an apparent loss of corporate memory of knowledge. in fact the causes are often almost self-evident. when reviewing reports. Similarly. DfT (2010) Failure of Bridge RDG1 48 between Whitton and Feltham. This task should be done by engineers with particular expertise in scour.

with adequate illustrations and references. See www.icevirtuallibrary.raiu. Water Resources Publications. Report no. where you will also find detailed author guidelines. WHAT DO YOU THINK? To discuss this paper. RAIU. Your contribution will be forwarded to the author(s) for a reply 52 .Forensic Engineering Volume 165 Issue FE1 Scour failure of bridges Maddison Melville BW and Coleman SE (2000) Bridge Scour. please email up to 500 words to the editor at journals@ice. will be published as discussion in a future issue of the journal. Blackrock. if considered appropriate by the editorial panel. Highlands Ranch. Proceedings journals rely entirely on contributions sent in by civil engineering Papers should be 2000–5000 words long (briefing papers should be 1000–2000 words long). CO. RAIU (Railway Accident Investigation Unit) (2010) Malahide Viaduct Collapse on the Dublin to Belfast Line on the 21st August You can submit your paper online via for further details (accessed 02/09/2011). academics and students. R2010-004.

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