You are on page 1of 32

Corus Construction Services & Development

Student guide to steel bridge design


1 Introduction 3 Composite plate girder 5 Corrosion protection

1.1 General highway bridges
1.2 Basic features of bridges 3.1 General layout 6 Concluding remarks
3.2 Girder construction
2 Forms of steel bridge 3.3 Girder erection and slab 7 References and further reading
construction construction
2.1 Beam bridges 3.4 Scheme design Corus gratefully acknowledges the
assistance given by the Steel
2.2 Arch bridges 3.5 Design code checks Construction Institute in compiling
2.3 Suspension bridges this publication.
2.4 Stayed girder bridges 4 Material properties and
2.5 Advantages of steel bridges specifications


1 Introduction
Bridges are an essential part of the
transport infrastructure.

1.1 General
A bridge is a means by which a road,
railway or other service is carried over
an obstacle such as a river, valley, other
road or railway line, either with no
intermediate support or with only a
limited number of supports at
convenient locations.

Bridges range in size from very modest

short spans over, say, a small river to
the extreme examples of suspension
bridges crossing wide estuaries.
Appearance is naturally less crucial for
the smaller bridges, but in all cases the
designer will consider the appearance
of the basic elements, which make up
his bridge, the superstructure and the The guide describes the general features Above: Renaissance Bridge (Photo courtesy
substructure, and choose proportions of bridges, outlines the various forms of of Angle Ring Co.), Bedford, England

which are appropriate to the particular steel bridge construction in common Opposite: Clyde Arc Bridge, Glasgow,
circumstances considered. The use use, and discusses the considerations Scotland
of steel often helps the designer to to be made in designing them. It
Front cover: Hulme Arch, Manchester,
select proportions that are describes the steps in the design England
aesthetically pleasing. procedure for a composite plate girder
highway bridge superstructure,
Bridges are an essential part of the explaining how to choose an initial
transport infrastructure. For example, outline arrangement and then how to
there are more than 15,000 highway apply design rules to analyse it and
bridges in the UK, with approximately detail the individual elements of the
300 being constructed each year as bridge. Reference is made to simplified
replacements or additions. Many of versions of the Structural Eurocodes for
these new bridges use steel as the bridge design, which are available for
principal structural elements because it student use (see Ref.1 on page 31). In
is an economic and speedy form of addition, the guide outlines material
construction. On average, around specification issues and the various
35,000 tonnes of steel have been used approaches to corrosion protection.
annually in the UK for the construction
of highway and railway bridges.

1.2 Basic features of bridges footpath widths along with clear height This limitation frequently results in
Superstructure above the carriageway are usually ‘half through’ construction (see
The superstructure of a bridge is the specified by the highway authority. Section 2.1). Railway loading is greater
part directly responsible for carrying the Whilst the bridge designer has little than highway loading and consequently
road or other service. Its layout is influence over selecting the layout and the superstructures for railway bridges
determined largely by the disposition geometry of the running surface, he are usually much heavier than for
of the service to be carried. In most does determine the structural form of highway bridges.
cases, there is a deck structure that the superstructure. In doing so, he must
carries the loads from the individual balance requirements for the Footbridges are smaller lighter
wheels and distributes the loads to the substructure and superstructure, whilst structures. They are narrow (about 2m
principal structural elements, such as achieving necessary clearances above wide) and are usually single span
beams spanning between the and across the obstacle below. structures that rarely span more than
substructure supports. 40m. There are a number of forms of
Rail bridges typically carry two tracks, steel footbridge (see Ref.4 on page 31),
Road bridges carry a number of traffic laid on ballast, although separate although they are outside the scope of
lanes, in one or two directions, and may superstructures are often provided for this guidance publication.
also carry footways. At the edge of the each track. Railway gradients are much
bridge, parapets are provided for the more limited than roadway gradients Substructure
protection of vehicles and people. The and because of this the construction The substructure of a bridge is
arrangement of traffic lanes and depth of the superstructure (from rail responsible for supporting the
footways is usually decided by the level to the underside or soffit of the superstructure and carrying the loads to
highway engineer. Traffic lane and bridge) is often very tightly constrained. the ground through foundations.


To support the superstructure, single supports are generally constructed of Above: Docklands Light Rail Bridge,
span bridges require two ‘abutments’, reinforced concrete. London, England.
one at each end of the bridge. Where
the bearing strength of the soil is good, Integral construction
these abutments can be quite small, for Traditionally, movement (expansion)
example a strip foundation on an joints have been provided at the ends of
embankment. Foundations on poor soils the superstructure, to accommodate
must either be broad spread footings or expansion/contraction. Experience in
be piled. The abutments may also act as recent years has been that such joints
retaining walls, for example to hold back require on-going maintenance, yet they
the end of an approach embankment. inevitably leak and result in deterioration
of the substructure below the joint. For
Multiple span bridges require bridges of modest overall length, it is
intermediate supports, often called now common to use integral
‘piers’, to provide additional support to construction, with no movement joint. In
the superstructure. The locations of its simplest form, the ends of the
these supports are usually constrained superstructure are cast into the tops of
by the topography of the ground, though the abutments. Integral construction
where the superstructure is long the requires the consideration of soil-
designer may be able to choose the structure interaction and is likely to be
number and spacing of piers for overall beyond the scope of a student project.
economy or appearance. Intermediate

Forms of steel bridge construction

2 Forms of steel
bridge construction
Structural steelwork is used in the
superstructures of bridges from the
smallest to the greatest.

Steel is a most versatile and effective The fourth group is, in many ways, a
material for bridge construction, able to hybrid between a suspension bridge and
carry loads in tension, compression and a beam bridge but it does have features
shear. Structural steelwork is used in the that merit separate classification.
superstructures of bridges from the
smallest to the greatest. The following sections describe the
range of forms of steel and composite
There is a wide variety of structural (steel/concrete) bridge that are in current
forms available to the designer but each use, explaining the concept, layout and
essentially falls into one of four groups: key design issues for each type.
• beam bridges
• arch bridges
• suspension bridges
• stayed girder bridges

Below left: Trent Rail Bridge,

Gainsborough, England.

Opposite: Severn Bridge, Bristol, England.

Forms of steel bridge construction

2.1 Beam bridges intermediate supports and access for are rarely used today for bridges: plate
Beam and slab bridges construction. girders are almost always used.
A beam and slab bridge is one where a Typically, plate girders are spaced
reinforced concrete deck slab sits on Multi-girder decks between about 3m and 3.5m, apart
top of steel I-beams, and acts In multi-girder construction a number of transversely and thus, for an ordinary
compositely with them in bending. There similarly sized longitudinal plate girders two-lane overbridge, four girders are
are two principal forms of this beam and are arranged at uniform spacing across provided. This suits an economic
slab construction – multi-girder the width of the bridge, as shown in the thickness of the deck slab that
construction and ladder deck typical cross section in Figure 1 below. distributes the direct loads from the
construction. Between them, they The girders and slab effectively form a wheels by bending transversely.
account for the majority of medium span series of composite T-beams side-by-
highway bridges currently being built in side. The girders are braced together at Ladder decks
the UK, and are suitable for spans supports and at some intermediate An alternative arrangement with only
ranging from 13m up to 100m. The positions. two main girders is often used. Then
choice between the two forms depends the slab is supported on crossbeams at
on economic considerations and For smaller spans it is possible to use about 3.5m spacing; the slab spans
site-specific factors such as form of rolled section beams (UKBs), but these longitudinally between crossbeams and
the crossbeams span transversely
between the two main girders. This
arrangement is referred to as ‘ladder
Footway Traffic lanes Footway deck’ construction, because of the
Surfacing plan configuration of the steelwork,
Waterproofing which resembles the stringers and rungs
Concrete slab of a ladder.

A typical cross-section of a ladder deck

girder bridge is shown in Figure 2. The
arrangement with two main girders is
appropriate (and economic) for a bridge
Figure 1: Cross-section of a typical multi-girder deck bridge. width up to that for a dual two-lane

carriageway. Wider decks can be carried
Footway Traffic lanes Footway
on a pair of ladder decks.
For both deck types, the use of plate Waterproofing
girders gives scope to vary the flange Concrete slab
and web sizes to suit the loads carried
at different positions along the bridge.
However, the resulting economies must Steel
be weighed against the cost of splices.
Designers can also choose to vary the
depth of the girder along its length. For
Figure 2: Cross section of typical ladder deck bridge.
example, it is quite common to increase
the girder depth over intermediate
supports or to reduce it in midspan. circumstances, ‘half through’ main girders together with the deck and
The variation in depth can be achieved construction is used. In this form there transverse beams form a rectangular
either by straight haunching (tapered are two main girders, one either side of U shape and this generates so-called
girders) or by curving the bottom the roadway or railway and the slab is ‘U-frame action’ to restrain the top
flange upwards. The shaped web, either supported on crossbeams connected to flange. There has to be a moment
for a variable depth girder or for a the inner faces at the bottom of the connection between the cross-members
constant depth girder with a vertical webs. The half-through form is perhaps and the main girders to achieve this.
camber, is easily achieved by profile more familiar in older railway bridges, Under railway loading, the connection is
cutting during fabrication. where the girders are of riveted subjected to onerous fatigue loading
construction, but it is still used for new and an alternative using box girders has
Half-through plate girder bridges welded railway bridges and occasionally been developed.
In some situations, notably for railway for highway bridges.
bridges, the depth between the
trafficked surface (or rails) and the In half-through construction using
underside of the bridge is severely I-beams, the top flange, which is in
constrained and there is little depth compression, has to be provided with Top: M4/M25 Poyle Interchange,
available for the structure. In these lateral stability by some means. The two Slough, England.

Box girder bridges For very long spans and for bridges such resist bending, especially when
Box girders are in effect a particular form as lifting bridges, where minimising asymmetrical loading is considered.
of plate girder, where two webs are structural weight is very important, an Comparing a single box with a twin plate
joined top and bottom by a common all-steel orthotropic deck may be used girder solution it can be seen that the
flange. Box girders perform primarily in instead of a reinforced concrete slab. whole of the bottom flange of the box
bending, but also offer very good The form of deck has fairly thin flange resists vertical bending wherever the
torsional stiffness and strength. Box plate (typically 14mm) to the underside load is placed transversely.
girders are often used for large and very of which steel stiffeners have been
large spans, sometimes as a cable welded; the stiffened plate is then able The aesthetic appeal of box girders, with
stayed bridge. They can also be used for to span both transversely and their clean lines, is especially important
more modest spans, especially when the longitudinally (to internal diaphragms) to where the underside of the bridge is
torsional stiffness is advantageous, such distribute the local wheel loads. clearly visible.
as for curved bridges.
Above about 200m, box girders are Although the fabrication of box girders is
In beam and slab bridges, box girders likely to be part of a cable stayed more expensive than plate girders, the
are an alternative to plate girders bridge or a suspension bridge. The box margin is not so great as to discourage
when spans exceed 40-50m. They can girders used in suspension bridges are their use for modest spans. For large
show economies over plate girders, specially shaped for optimum spans, the relative simplicity of large
though fabrication cost rates are aerodynamic performance; they plated elements may well lead to more
somewhat higher for box girders. Two invariably use an orthotropic steel deck economical solutions than other forms.
forms are used: for economy of weight. Erection is facilitated by the integrity of
• multiple closed steel boxes, with the individual lengths of the box girders.
deck slab over the top The principal advantages of box girders Sections are usually preassembled at
• an open top trapezoidal box, closed derive from the torsional rigidity of the ground level then lifted into position and
by the deck slab, which is connected closed cell. This is particularly important welded to the previous section.
to small flanges on top of each web as spans increase and the natural
frequencies of a bridge tend to reduce; Box girders are also used for railway
Spans of 100 to 200m typically use stiffness in torsion maintains a bridges in half-through construction, as
either a single box or a pair of boxes reasonably high torsional frequency. an alternative to plate girders. Two box
with crossbeams. Boxes are often varied girders are used, with the deck simply
in depth, in the same way as plate Torsional stiffness also makes boxes supported between them. With this
girders, as mentioned earlier. more efficient in their use of material to arrangement, there is no need to achieve

Forms of steel bridge construction

U-frame action, because of the torsional A typical configuration of a truss bridge effective construction depth (between rail
stiffness and stability provided by the is a ‘through truss’ configuration. There level and the bridge soffit), which is very
box sections themselves. is a pair of truss girders connected at often crucially important to railways. The
bottom chord level by a deck that also construction depth is dictated only by
Truss bridges carries the traffic, spanning between the the cross members spanning between
A truss is a triangulated framework of two trusses. At top chord level the the main truss girders.
individual elements or members. A truss girders are braced together, again with a
is sometimes referred to as an ‘open triangulated framework of members, Very many footbridges are built using
web girder’, because its overall creating an ‘open box’ through which trusses made from steel hollow
structural action is still as a member the traffic runs. Where clearance below sections. Profile cutting and welding of
resisting bending but the open nature of the truss is not a problem, the deck the hollow sections is straightforward
the framework results in its elements structure is often supported on top of and economic. Half through or through
(‘chords’ in place of flanges and ‘posts’ the truss; sometimes a slab is made to construction is usually employed – the
and diagonals’ in place of webs) being act compositely with the top chords, in floor of the bridge is made at the bottom
primarily in tension or compression. a similar way to an ordinary beam and chord level between two truss girders.
Bending of the individual elements is a slab bridge.
secondary effect, except where loads
are applied away from the node Today, the truss girder form of
positions, such as loads from closely- construction usually proves expensive to
spaced crossbeams that span between fabricate because of the large amount of
a pair of trusses. labour-intensive work in building up the
members and making the connections.
Trusses were common in the earlier Trusses have little advantage over plate
periods of steel construction, since girders for ordinary highway bridges. On
welding had not been developed and the other hand, they do offer a very light
the sizes of rolled section and plate yet stiff form of construction for
were limited; every piece had to be footbridges, gantries and demountable
joined by riveting. Although very labour bridges (Bailey bridges).
intensive, both in the shop and on site,
this form offered great flexibility in the Trusses are still considered a viable Opposite page: A9 Bridge,
Pitlochry, Scotland.
shapes, sizes, and capacity of bridges. solution in the UK for railway bridges,
As well as being used as beams, especially where the spans are greater Below left: Nene Bridge,
trusses were also used as arches, as than 50m. A high degree of stiffness can Peterborough, England.

cantilevers and as stiffening girders to be provided by deep trusses, yet the use Below right: Brinnington Rail Bridge,
suspension bridges. of through trusses minimises the Manchester, England.

Forms of steel bridge construction

2.2 Arch bridges bridge, much of the deck is hung from in a shallow curve, and a deck is
In an arch bridge, the principal structural the heavy arch truss, although the deck supported from the two cables by a
elements (‘ribs’) are curved members passes through the arch near the ends series of hangers along their length. The
that carry loads principally in and is then supported above it. cables and hangers are in simple
compression. A simple arch ‘springs’ tension and the deck spans transversely
from two foundations and imposes One form of arch which is sometimes and longitudinally between the hangers.
horizontal thrusts upon them. Although used for more modest spans is the tied In most cases the cables are anchored
the arch ribs are primarily in arch. Instead of springing from at ground level, either side of the main
compression, arch bridges also have to foundations, the two ends of the arch towers; often the sidespans are hung
carry asymmetric loading and point are tied by the deck itself (this avoids from these portions of the cables.
loading and the ribs carry this partly by horizontal reactions on the foundations).
bending. This is more conventionally The deck is supported vertically by In the mid 19th century, wrought iron
seen (in masonry bridges, for example) hangers from the arch ribs. links were used to make suspension
as the displacement of the line of thrust ‘chains’; by the end of that century, high
from its mean path under dead load. In recent years, arches and tied arches strength wire was being used for
have become a little more common, suspension ‘cables’. Steel wire is still
In masonry bridges, load is imposed on partly because the use of an arch from being used today. Sometimes, for more
the arch from above; the roadway (or which to hang the deck allows the modest spans, wire ropes (spirally
railway) is on top of fill above the arch. construction depth of a suspended deck wound wires) have been used.
A steel arch can have a similar to be kept shallow, even at longer
configuration, with a steel or concrete spans, and partly because the arches In addition to its action in carrying
deck above the arch, supported on make a clear architectural statement. traffic, the deck acts as a stiffening
struts to the arch below, or the arch can Arches are sometimes skew to the line girder running the length of each span.
be above the roadway, with the deck of the deck and sometimes the arch The stiffening girder spreads
suspended from it by hangers. planes are inclined (inclined arch planes concentrated loads and provides
have been used in many recent stiffness against oscillation; such
One situation where the arch is still footbridges, for dramatic visual effect). stiffness is needed against both bending
favoured is in deep ravines, where a and twisting actions.
single span is required; the ribs can be 2.3 Suspension bridges
built out without the need for In a suspension bridge, the principal Because of their fundamental simplicity
intermediate support. In such cases, the structural elements are purely in tension. and economy of structural action,
deck is usually above the arch. A suspension bridge is fundamentally suspension bridges have been used for
simple in action: two cables (or ropes or the longest bridge spans. The graceful
Perhaps the most familiar arch is that of chains) are suspended between two curve of the suspension cable combined
the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In that supports (‘towers’ or ‘pylons’), hanging with the strong line of the deck and

stiffening girder generally give a very
pleasing appearance. The combination
of grace and grandeur in such situations
leads to the acknowledged view that
many of the world’s most exciting
bridges are suspension bridges.

In American suspension bridges, which

pioneered long span construction, truss
girders have been used almost
exclusively. They are particularly suitable
for wide and deep girders – some US
bridges carry six lanes of traffic on each
of two levels of a truss girder! Japanese
suspension bridges have also favoured
the use of trusses, again because of the
heavy loads carried – some carry
railways as well as highways. The
longest suspension bridge span is that
of Akashi-Kaikyo (1991m) and there the
deck is of truss construction, carrying
six lanes of traffic.

Box girders have been used for the

stiffening girders of many suspension
bridges. They provide stiffness in
bending and in torsion with minimum
weight. Some of the longest spans,
such as the Humber Bridge (1410m),
Runyang Bridge (1490m) and the
Storebælt East Bridge (1624m) have
steel box girder decks.

Left: Forth Road Bridge,

Edinburgh, Scotland

Right: River Usk Crossing,

Newport, Wales

Forms of steel bridge construction

2.4 Stayed girder bridges development has only been made in poor ground conditions. Minimum
In this form of bridge, the main girders possible by the facility to carry out self-weight is also an important factor
are given extra support at intervals extensive analysis of dynamic behaviour for lift and swing bridges, as it reduces
along their length by inclined tension and by using sophisticated damping the size of counter-weights and leads to
members (stays) connected to a high against oscillation. lower mechanical plant costs.
mast or pylon. The girders thus sustain
both bending and compression forces. The visual appearance of stayed The high strength of steel allows
The deck is ‘suspended’, in the sense structures can be very effective, even construction depths to be reduced,
that it relies on the tensile stays, but the dramatic. They are frequently overcoming problems with headroom
stays cannot be constructed considered appealing or eye-catching. clearances, and minimising the length
independently of the deck, unlike a and height of approach ramps. This
suspension bridge, so it is a distinctly On a more modest scale, cable stayed can also result in a pleasing
different structural form of bridge. construction is sometimes used for low-profile appearance.
footbridges (spans of 40m and above),
Stayed girder bridges were developed to give support and stiffness to an High quality prefabrication
in Germany during the reconstruction otherwise very light structure. Prefabrication in controlled shop
period after 1945, for major river conditions has benefits in terms of
bridges such as those over the lower 2.5 Advantages of steel quality, and trial erection can be done
Rhine. Stayed bridges using plate bridges at the works to avoid fit-up problems
girders and simple cable stays of high Regardless of the form of bridge on site.
tensile wire have proved to be much construction, a material with good
cheaper than trusses and have therefore tensile strength is essential and steel is Speed of erection
displaced them for longer spans (over effective and economical in fulfilling that Construction time on site in hostile
about 200m). role. The advantages of steel in bridges environments is minimised, resulting in
are outlined below. economic and safety benefits.
Recent developments have extended
the realm of the cable stayed bridge to High strength to weight ratio The lightweight nature of steel permits
very long spans, which had previously The lightweight nature of steel the speedy erection of large
been the almost exclusive domain of construction combined with its strength components, which minimises disruption
suspension bridges. Several cable is particularly advantageous in long to the public where rail possessions or
stayed bridges have been built with span bridges where self-weight is road closures are required. In special
spans over 800m and Sutong Bridge, crucial. Even on more modest spans the circumstances complete bridges can be
due to be completed in 2008, has a reduced weight minimises substructure installed overnight.
clear span of 1088m. Such and foundation costs, which is beneficial

Top: Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Versatility The structural elements of a steel bridge
Steelwork can be constructed by a wide are visible and accessible, so any signs Below: Top: QE2 Bridge, Dartford, England.
range of methods and sequences. For of deterioration are readily apparent,
Bottom: Festival Park Flyover, Stoke,
example the main girders can be without extensive investigations, and England.
installed by crane, by slide-in may be swiftly and easily addressed by
techniques or using transporters. Steel repainting the affected areas. Most
gives the contractor flexibility in terms of major structures are now designed with
erection sequence and construction future maintenance in mind, by the
programme. Girders can be erected provision of permanent access platforms
either singly or in pairs, depending on and travelling gantries, and modern
plant constraints, and components can protective coating systems have lives in
be sized to overcome particular access excess of 30 years.
problems at the site. Once erected, the
steel girders provide a platform for Modification, demolition and repair
subsequent operations. Steel bridges are adaptable and can
readily be altered for a change in use.
Steel also has broad architectural They can be widened to accommodate
possibilities. The high surface quality of extra lanes of traffic, and strengthened
steel creates clean sharp lines and to carry heavier traffic loads. When the
allows attention to detail. Modern bridge is no longer required, the steel
fabrication methods facilitate curvature girders can easily be cut into
in both plan and elevation. The painting manageable sizes and recycled, which is
of steelwork introduces colour and a benefit in terms of sustainability.
contrast, whilst repainting can change or Should the bridge be damaged, the
refresh the appearance of the bridge. affected areas may be cut out and new
sections welded in. Alternatively, girders
Durability can be repaired by heat straightening, a
Steel bridges now have a proven life technique pioneered in the US, and
span extending to well over 100 years. recently introduced to the UK.
Indeed, the life of a steel bridge that is
carefully designed, properly built, well-
maintained and not seriously
overloaded, is indefinitely long.

Composite plate girder highway bridges

3 Composite plate girder highway bridges

This section of the guide deals principally with beam
and slab bridges using fabricated plate girders.

This section of the guide deals flanges and web thickness) are chosen
principally with beam and slab bridges by the designer to suit both the in-
using fabricated plate girders. It service condition (carrying traffic loads)
provides guidance that may help with an and the loadings at the various stages of
undergraduate bridge design project. construction. The girders are continuous
Following a brief summary of the general over intermediate supports (when there
layout, the construction aspects that is more than one span) and are braced
need to be considered are described. together at supports and at some
Advice is given on scheme or concept intermediate positions.
design and an explanation of the design
code checks that need to be made is Composite action between the slab and
offered. Advice on more detailed girder is usually achieved by using stud
aspects of material specification are connectors (headed dowel bars) welded
given in Section 4, and an introduction on the top flange; the number and
to corrosion protection is given in spacing of studs depends on the level of
Section 5. shear flow between steel girder and
concrete slab.
3.1 General layout
The cross-sectional layouts of bridges In continuous construction, the slab is in
discussed in this section are the multi- tension in the hogging moment regions
Top: Simon de Montfort Bridge,
girder deck shown in Figure 1 on page 8, over the intermediate supports. It is
Evesham, England.
and the ladder deck shown in Figure 2 necessary to provide sufficient
Above: Robotic welder on page 9. The guidance offered relates reinforcement to the slab in these
(Photo courtesy of Fairfield-Mabey).
both to constant depth girders (parallel regions to share the tensile forces and
Opposite: T&I machine flanged beams) and to beams with to limit the consequent crack widths to
(Photo courtesy of Fairfield-Mabey). variable depth, although the design an acceptable level.
code checks of the latter may be
beyond the scope of an undergraduate At abutments and intermediate
project. For these bridges, the supports, the girders sit on bearings
proportions of the girder section (depth, fastened to the bottom flange. The
width of tension and compression girders need to be stiffened to carry the

bearing loads at these points. In neater appearance, the web stiffeners end to the other. Repeating the process
addition, transverse bracing is required for the outer girders of multi-girder with the second flange creates the
between girders at supports to provide decks are usually only on the inside I-girder. This obviously saves labour and
torsional restraint and to carry lateral faces, where they cannot be seen, consequently reduces cost.
forces (chiefly wind) from the plane of except at bearing positions.
the deck slab to the bearings. Vertical web stiffeners are fitted
3.2 Girder construction manually but in some fabrication shops
At other positions in the span, transverse Fabricated I-girders are assembled the welding is carried out by computer-
bracing may be required to provide from three plates, two flanges and a controlled equipment. It is often cheaper
lateral restraint to slender compression web. These are normally cut from a to choose a thicker web than to
flanges. This is required in midspan larger plate (plates from the rolling mills introduce a large amount of stiffening.
regions during construction, before the are typically 2.5m wide x 18m long).
deck slab concrete has cured, and Each main girder is fabricated in several
adjacent to intermediate supports both The cutting of flanges and web from long pieces, which will be joined
during construction and in service. In a larger plate is achieved by using end-to-end or ‘spliced’ on site. The
multi-girder decks transverse bracing computer controlled cutting equipment. lengths of these pieces are chosen to
normally takes the form of triangulated In cutting a web plate, it is easy to suit the configuration of the bridge,
frames between pairs of beams. In cut to a required camber with very with the fabricated length of each
ladder decks, the moment-connections little wastage. usually restricted to a maximum of
to the cross girders provide the restraint 27m, since girders longer than this
to the main beams. When the three plates have been cut, require special permission to travel on
they are then fillet welded into the public roads.
For longer spans, the depth of girders I-section. Traditionally this was carried
produces rather slender webs and it out by manually assembling the pieces Painting is almost always done in the
is customary to provide vertical web in a jig, tack welding them and then fabrication shop, with the exception of
stiffeners in the regions of high shear welding alternately on each side of the the final coat, which is usually applied
near the supports to improve their web. Now available in some fabricating on site. Refer to Section 5 for details of
resistance to shear buckling. (With shops are machines, which can locate corrosion protection systems.
ladder deck construction, the stiffeners and press a web onto a flange in an
to which the cross girders are inverted T, then weld automatically and
attached perform this function). For a continuously on both sides from one

Composite plate girder highway bridges

3.3 Girder erection and slab With the girders in position, the next
construction stage is for the concrete deck slab to be
When the substructure is ready to receive cast. During casting, the concrete needs
them, the bare steel girders are erected to be supported and this is normally
first, usually by mobile crane. In some achieved using formwork supported by
instances, partially assembled steelwork the steel girders. The traditional formwork
(braced pairs of multi-girders or ladder comprises sheets of plywood laid on
deck beams with cross girders) are cross members, which are removed after
‘launched’, i.e. they are pushed out along the concrete has hardened. Alternatives
the bridge axis from one abutment, to timber include glass reinforced plastic
though this is not common. (GRP) panels which can be left in place,
and precast reinforced concrete planks
During erection, the consecutive girder which become a structural part of the
sections are joined at the site splice deck slab, acting with the in-situ
positions. Such splices, which are concrete above them. The advantage of
normally arranged near the point of such permanent formwork is that the
contraflexure, are most easily made using removal operation is eliminated. The
friction grip bolts, though welded joints use of precast planks is now becoming
are also used. Bolted splices use cover very common.
plates which lap over the ends of both
girders. Covers are normally on both The steel girders alone carry the
Below: M20 Road Bridge, faces of flanges and web, thus weight of wet concrete and all temporary
Folkstone, England. sandwiching the girder material. works. As formwork cannot be relied
upon to stabilise the top flange of the
girders, the designer must ensure that
girders and bracing are adequate for this
loading condition. Temporary cross-
bracing is sometimes provided (for
example in midspan regions of simply
supported girders) to stabilise the
compression flange. This bracing is
removed after the concrete has hardened.

Once hardened, slab and girders form

a composite section that carries all
further loads imposed on the bridge.
It should be remembered that the
stress distribution due to the weight
of wet concrete on the bare steel
girders remains unchanged; that
weight is not carried by the stronger
composite section.

With continuous girders, the bridge is

subject to negative or hogging moments
In multi-girder decks, the slender over the intermediate supports, putting
individual I-sections are rather unstable the deck slab into tension. To minimise
on their own, spanning across the full the built-in tensile forces in the slab
span; adjacent girder sections are reinforcement, it is usual to concrete the
therefore frequently braced together and midspan lengths of slab first and then fill
lifted in pairs. In ladder deck the lengths over supports.
construction, the main girders usually
have to be erected individually and may When the concrete deck is complete, the
require some temporary restraint before surfacing is laid over the whole bridge.
the cross girders are connected. The weight of surfacing is therefore
(Alternatively, pairs of main girders with carried on the composite beams.
cross beams already connected can be
lifted in one go, if a sufficiently large
crane is available.)

3.4 Scheme design
For the designer to show his preferences
and exercise his judgement, the greatest
scope is at the initial stage when the first
lines are drawn on paper. The road
layout will have been determined by the
highway engineer. There will be some
constraints in placing the substructure,
but the designer is often free to modify
span lengths and support arrangements
to achieve economy, appearance or
other requirements.

At the same time as considering the

longitudinal elevation of the bridge, the
cross-section arrangement must also be
considered. For a plate girder bridge,
this means the number and spacing of The design of variable depth girders is Figure 3: Typical elevation of
the girders. generally beyond the scope of the composite bridges.

simplified design rules appropriate to

Elevation student use (Ref.1 on page 31), so care
The dominant parameter, which should be exercised in applying them to
influences the elevation of the bridge, is project designs other than parallel
girder depth. Girders may be deep or flange girders.
shallow; they may have parallel flanges
or taper to a greater depth at The depth of a parallel flange bridge
intermediate supports (haunched); the should normally lie between span/20
soffit (bottom flange) may be curved in and span/30, the depth being measured
elevation, like an arch. In deciding upon from top of slab to underside of girder.
an appropriate girder depth there are Simply supported spans will usually be
some useful rules of thumb that may be towards the deeper end of this range,
employed to produce an initial outline of with continuous spans toward the
the bridge. Typical arrangements and shallow end. Ladder deck bridges are
proportions are shown in Figure 3 above. often a little deeper, particularly where
the deck is wide.
Girders with constant depth are,
naturally, the basic form and the Variable depth girders allow reduced
starting point from which to consider construction depth in midspan at the
the elevation. These parallel flange expense of greater depth over the
girders are cheaper per tonne to intermediate supports. A central depth
fabricate than variable depth girders. of between span/30 and span/40 can be
For shorter spans, below about 35m, achieved with a depth of about span/18
there is little advantage in choosing at the adjacent supports. A tapered end
variable depth girders, and parallel span needs a depth of about span/15 at
flanges are usually selected. the first intermediate support.
Continuous viaducts (many similar
spans) use parallel flange girders, the In selecting span sizes, it should be
appearance of numerous variations of noted that where there are many spans,
girder depth being generally considered uniformity looks better than irregular
unattractive. Girders with haunches or spacing. It is better not to vary too
a curved soffit are most suited to a greatly the spacing of adjacent spans:
three-span bridge or the major and an end span of 80 per cent to the length
adjacent spans of a viaduct. Curved of the next span is structurally well
soffit girders look particularly pleasing proportioned. For a bridge with variable
with a fairly low level bridge such as a depth girders, the spans either side of
river. Girders with tapered haunches are the major span should be between
used in crossing motorways or larger about 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the
spans over railways. major span.

Cross section – multi-girder decks for lateral stability of the compression the cross girders is generally uniform
The basic cross section appropriate to flanges; there is then no bracing (there is some variation local to the
multi-girder composite plate girder between adjacent pairs. supports of skew decks, to suit the
bridges is shown in Figure 1, on page 8. skew angle). The deck slab outside the
The reinforced concrete slab sits on top If transverse bracing is continuous lines of the main girders is not
of four steel girders. The spacing of across many girders, it participates in supported on beams, it cantilevers in
girders is uniform and on each side of the global bending of the bridge and the same way as in multi-girder decks.
the bridge are cantilevers supported by becomes prone to fatigue damage –
the continuity of the deck slab. such continuity is best avoided. The cross girder spacing is usually
between about 3m and 4m and the slab
Girder spacing is influenced by the In a multi-girder bridge, the webs are thickness is between 240mm and
design of the deck slab, which acts both usually thin and require intermediate 260mm, as for multi-girder decks. Cross
as a top flange in longitudinal bending transverse web stiffeners to enhance girders can span up to about 18m.
and as a slab in traverse bending. For shear resistance. In hogging moment
present purposes, it is sufficient to note regions (adjacent to intermediate Initial sizing
that girder spacing is normally between supports) most of the web depth is To make a start on detailed design, it is
2.5m and 4m and slab thickness in compression – the thin webs then necessary to select some preliminary
between 240mm and 260mm, the actual limit the cross section to its elastic member sizes so that analysis can be
value depending largely on the bending resistance (unlike sections carried out. Such initial selection can be
configuration necessary to suit the deck with thick webs, which may develop based on fairly crude estimation of
width. Cantilevers should not exceed plastic resistance). bending moments. In simple spans,
about 2m and should certainly be less if overall moments can obviously be
they carry vehicle loading (even Cross section - ladder decks calculated quickly; in continuous spans,
footways have to be designed for The basic cross section appropriate to moments can be estimated as a
accidental vehicle loading unless ladder deck-girder composite plate proportion of the values calculated for a
protected by a crash barrier). girder bridges is shown in Figure 2, on fixed-ended beam. In both cases, loads
page 9. The reinforced concrete slab can be shared between girders by
An even number of girders is to be sits on top of the cross girders and the statics or by simple rule of thumb.
preferred. This allows girders to be main girders, and spans longitudinally
paired together by transverse bracing between cross girders. The spacing of

Composite plate girder highway bridges

This page: A1(M), North Yorkshire, England.

Left: Thelwall Viaduct, M6,

Warrington, England.

For continuous spans, dead and guess, and a little experience with the
superimposed load moments should be subsequent analysis would aid future
taken as fixed-ended beam moments, initial judgements in similar
possibly modified by the moment circumstances. For loads on the cross
distribution method or other simple girders of ladder decks, the self weight
manual calculation if the spans are and the UDL component of traffic load,
significantly unequal in length. Live (see the simplified Eurocodes document,
load moments over an intermediate Ref.1 on page 31) is shared equally
support should be taken as about between cross girders; the Tandem
90 per cent of wL2/12 and at midspan System (TS) component may be taken
they should be about 120 per cent of conservatively as being wholly
wL2/24 (where w is the load/unit length supported on one cross girder.
carried by an individual composite beam
and L is the span). From these simply calculated values of
moments and shears, flange and web
For ladder decks, the traffic loads can sizes can be selected using the
be proportioned between the two main principles of limit state design (see
girders on the basis of a ‘static’ Section 4.5.2 of Ref.1 on page 31).
distribution. For multi-girder decks a Tension flanges may presume a design
‘static’ distribution of the load from each resistance based on yield strength.
lane between the two girders under that Compression flanges may conservatively
lane can lead to significant over- presume a resistance based on
estimate of the load on an individual 90 per cent of yield strength for the
girder, because the slab spreads the in-service condition. Webs may presume
loads transversely between all the a resistance based on 60 per cent of the
girders. On the other hand, equal shear yield strength.
sharing of the total load between all the
girders will give an underestimate.
A value midway between these two
alternatives could be used as a first

3.5 Design code checks For the purposes of student project effects are the internal forces, moments
General design, the simplified versions of the and stresses within the structure.
Design code checks are sometimes Structual Eurocodes should be used.
called ‘detailed design’, but it is more of (Ref.1 on page 31). The project brief will The designer then verifies that the
a checking process than original define the geometrical configuration and effects are acceptable throughout the
creative design. The selected structural perhaps the loading to be considered (if structure. In practice The designer
arrangement is analysed for the various it is other than the simplified highway identifies the small number of
loading conditions and then the loading given in Ref.1 on page 31). positions where the effects will be
strengths of the members are checked greatest or most critical and evaluates
in detail to ensure that they are Limit state design the effects and the limits at these
adequate to carry the moments and Modern design is based on limit state positions. Typically the designer will
forces. Details such as stiffener sizes principles. Under this philosophy, need to consider:
and bracing member sizes, etc, are structural adequacy is verified at two
chosen at this stage to suit the global limit states, referred to as ultimate At supports:
actions of the main members. limit state (ULS) and serviceability limit • Maximum moment with coexisting
state (SLS). shear
Before commencing design checks, the • Maximum shear with coexistent
designer should confirm and record the At each limit state the effects of nominal moment
necessary parameters. He should know: or ‘characteristic’ values of applied • Maximum reactions (for bearing
• the geometrical configuration to be loads are evaluated and multiplied by a stiffener design and bearing selection)
achieved ‘partial factor’ to determine ‘design load
• the loading to be applied effects’ that have a high level of In midspan regions:
• the design standards to be observed reliability (i.e. a very low level of • Maximum moment with coexisting
• the properties of materials to be used probability that they would be exceeded shear
during the life of the bridge). These

At changes of beam section: The ultimate limit state (ULS) is reached
• Maximum moments and shears when a member or part just fails,
through rupture, buckling or fracture.
For cross girders of ladder decks:
• Maximum moment in midspan regions The serviceability limit state (SLS) is
• Maximum shear at the ends (for reached when damage becomes
design of bolted connections) apparent, necessitates remedial action,
or where the condition causes public
At each position where adequacy is concern, for example because of
verified, the design value of the excessive vibration or deflection.
resistance is determined, based on the
Top: Slochd Beag Bridge, Inverness, Scotland.
nominal strength of the material and the Partial factors on loads are normally
geometrical proportions of the member greater for ULS than for SLS because a Above: Westgate Bridge, Gloucester, England.
and its cross section. In the calculation greater margin is demanded against
of the resistance, the ‘nominal’ strength failure than against first occurrence of
is reduced by dividing by another ‘partial damage.
factor’, again to ensure a high level of
reliability (a high probability that the In many instances, for example where
strength would be at least this value). ULS is deemed to be reached when
yield occurs in an extreme fibre of the
Adequacy is achieved when the design section, the lesser requirements for SLS
resistance is at least equal to the design need not be checked, since they will
load effects. automatically be satisfied.

Composite plate girder highway bridges

Loading takes account of longitudinal and (i.e. ignore the area of concrete
The loading carried by a bridge transverse stiffness throughout the because it is in tension and will be
comprises dead load (the weight of the structure. For a multi-girder deck, this cracked, but include the area of
structure itself and any permanent analysis is usually carried out by reinforcement). Properties for a width of
fixtures to it) and the variable traffic computer using a grillage model in slab should include the full sectional
load. The actual traffic loading which the structure is idealised as a area of the slab.
experienced by bridges is of course number of longitudinal and transverse
extremely variable, and it would be beam elements in a single plane, rigidly The short-term modulus for concrete
impossible to examine any design for all inter-connected at nodes. Loads are should be used throughout. Divide the
possible vehicle combinations. applied, normal to the plane, at the node concrete area by the modular ratio to
points. or the level of analysis give equivalent steel areas for
Instead, ‘load models’ are used to appropriate to a student project, it is calculation of composite properties.
represent the traffic loading. To represent adequate to use a model with six equal
normal traffic a uniformly distributed load spacings along the main beams in each Strength checking
(UDL) is applied within each traffic lane span and one line of elements for each The strength check of the critical parts
over an appropriate length. Additionally, longitudinal beam. A typical grillage is of the bridge is the heart of the design
to represent the non-uniform nature of shown in Figure 4 below. code checking process. To verify
actual loading, a pair of heavy axles are the adequacy at key positions, total
applied at a position along the lane that Each beam element represents either a design load effects need to be
causes the worst effect. In the composite section (a main girder with determined. Combinations of the effects
Eurocodes, this loading is known as associated slab) or a width of slab. Slab due to the various loads, each multiplied
‘Load Model 1’ (LM1). width should be calculated midway to by its appropriate partial factor, should
the node on either side, or to the end of be clearly set out in tabular form to
To represent abnormal traffic – the a cantilever. avoid errors.
heavy multi-axle commercial vehicles
that are permitted within certain For a ladder deck, beam elements are Note that the weight of the wet concrete
limitations on their movement – a required for each transverse beam and is carried by the girders alone, not by
separate load model is used. In the for each longitudinal beam. Since the the composite section. The calculation
Eurocodes, a number of different axle design of the slab itself is outside the of moments and stresses must
arrangements and axle loads are defined scope of a student project, a finer mesh therefore be made separately for the two
for this load model (LM3). is not normally needed. stages of construction and the effects
added. For a simple design it is not
The loading given in the simplified Gross section properties are used for necessary to consider a succession of
Eurocodes document (Ref.1 on page 31), global analysis. Properties for composite stages representing sequential casting
are based on LM1, as interpreted by the beams should include the full area of the of the slab.
UK national annex; a simplified LM3 is appropriate slab width, except that the
also shown, for information, but would first longitudinal elements adjacent to an The design resistances must be
not normally need to be considered for a intermediate support in each span determined for key positions in the
student project. (about 15 per cent of the span) should structure. The Eurocodes provide rules
be given cracked section properties for determining the various resistances
Loading on footways is also modelled
using a UDL – use either the value in the
simplified Eurocodes document or the
value specified in the project brief.
Span 1 Span 2 Span 3

Analysis Main beam

To carry out the detailed design of an Main beam
Main beam
element of the structure, a global Main beam
analysis is necessary to determine the (a) Orthogonal grillage

forces and moments in the structure

under the variety of loading conditions.

(b) Grillage for spans with small skew (<20º)

Moments and shears in the steel beams
due to dead loads can be calculated by
analysis of line beam models. For simple
spans, manual calculations are
(c) Grillage for spans with large skew (>20º)

Calculations of forces on the composite

structure require global analysis that Figure 4: Examples of typical grillages

of steel and composite sections, and for resistance may be relied upon (referred Above: Chieveley, A34/M4 Junction 13,
the design of the reinforced concrete to as ‘class 2’ cross sections). The England
deck slab. For detailed guidance classification depends on the actual
appropriate to student project designs proportions of the steel elements that
refer to the simplified version of the are in compression, but as a rough
Eurocodes (see Ref.1 on page 31). guide it may be noted that sagging
regions of composite beams will usually
The method of determining resistance is be class 2, whilst hogging regions of
to treat each local area of the bridge composite beams will in a lower class. It
separately and assess separately the should be noted that whilst the final
bending and shear strengths. Allowance composite section may be class 2, the
is made in the rules for buckling, both of steel girder alone (i.e. before the slab is
the beam members and of web panels cast) may be a lower class.
in shear. The Eurocodes and the
simplified version contain tables, figures Special details such as bearing stiffeners
and formulae for this purpose. Where are covered by rules that determine both
there is interaction, for example between the share of forces carried by the
shear and bending, interaction particular detail and its resistance.
relationships (limiting values for each in
combination with the other) are defined. For each element or part, the design
resistance must at least equal the
Certain beam cross sections can design load effects. Where this is not
develop plastic bending resistance, achieved, the design must be modified
which is greater than elastic bending by increasing the flange size, reducing
resistance. A classification system is the spacing of bracing or in some other
given for deciding when plastic appropriate manner and rechecked.

Material properties and specifications

4 Material properties and specifications

Steel derives its mechanical properties from a
combination of chemical composition, mechanical
working and heat treatment.

For structural use in bridges, steel In these material standards, the

products (plates, hot rolled sections and designation system uses the prefix “S”
tubes) are cut to size and welded. In the to denote structural steels, followed by a
structure, the material is subject to three digit reference that corresponds to
tensile and compressive forces. The the specified minimum yield strength (in
steel generally responds in a linear N/mm2). Various other letters and
elastic manner, up to a ‘yield point’, and numerals may be appended to indicate
thereafter has a significant capacity for other properties or manufacturing
plastic straining before failure. process routes. The most commonly
specified steel for bridges is grade
Steel derives its mechanical properties S355J2+N to BS EN 10025-2; the “J2”
Above: Hallen Rail Bridge,
from a combination of chemical indicates a certain level of toughness
Avonmouth, England.
composition, mechanical working and and “+N” indicates the process route
Opposite: Jackfield Bridge, heat treatment. The chemical (i.e. which combination of heat
Shropshire, England.
composition is essentially a balance treatment and rolling are used).
between achieving the required strength
through alloy additions, whilst The principal properties of interest to the
maintaining other properties (i.e. ductility, designer are:
toughness and weldability). Mechanical • Yield strength
working is effectively rolling the steel; the • Ductility
more steel is rolled, the stronger it • Toughness
becomes, but this is at the expense of • Weldability
ductility. ‘Heat treatment’ covers the
control of cooling as the steel is rolled, Yield strength
as well as reheating and cooling The yield strength is the most
processes that can be employed to significant property that the designer
influence a range of material properties. will need to use or specify. The strength
grades covered by the material
All new structural steel for bridges is standards include; S235, S275, S355,
‘hot-rolled’ to one of the following S420 and S460, all of which relate to
European standards. the strength of material up to 16mm
• BS EN 10025-2 thick. Yield strength reduces slightly
Non-alloy steels with increasing plate thickness, but for
• BS EN 10025-3 & 4 student design projects, the basic
Fine grain steels nominal yield strength may be assumed
• BS EN 10025-5 irrespective of thickness.
Weather resistant steels
• BS EN 10025-6 Steels of 355 N/mm2 yield strength are
Quenched and tempered steels predominantly used in bridge
• BS EN 10210 applications in the UK because the
Structural hollow sections cost-to-strength ratio of this material is

lower than for other grades. Higher Toughness is specified by requiring Weldability
strength steels may offer other minimum energy absorption in a Charpy All structural steels are essentially
advantages, but they are less readily V-notch impact test, which is carried weldable. However, welding involves
available and the additional strength is out with the specimen at a specified laying down molten metal and local
of little benefit if fatigue or maximum (low) temperature and the requirement heating of the steel material. The weld
deflection governs. is given as part of the grade metal cools quickly, because the
designation. For typical bridge material offers a large ‘heat sink’ and the
Ductility steelwork, to BS EN 10025-2, the usual weld is relatively small. This can lead to
Ductility is a measure of the degree to designation letters are J0, J2 or K2 (in hardening of the ‘heat affected zone’ of
which the material can strain or elongate increasing level of toughness). material adjacent to the weld pool and
between the onset of yield and the to reduced toughness (often called
eventual fracture under tensile loading. BS EN 1993-1-10 describes the embrittlement). The greater the
Good ductility offers the ability to requirements for notch toughness in the thickness of material, the greater the
redistribute localised high stresses form of a table, which gives a limiting reduction of toughness.
without failure and to develop plastic thickness of a steel part, depending on
moment capacity of sections. Whether it the reference temperature, the steel The susceptibility to embrittlement also
is appreciated or not, the designer relies grade (yield strength and toughness), depends on the quantity and nature of
on ductility for a number of aspects of and the stress in the element. From this the alloying elements, principally the
design and fabrication. It is therefore of table, the limiting thicknesses for carbon content. This susceptibility can
paramount importance to all steels in a typical UK bridge (using grade S355 be expressed as the ‘Carbon Equivalent
structural applications. steel, at a reference temperature of Value’ (CEV), and the material standards
-20oC with a tensile stress under the give an expression for determining this
Notch toughness design loading at that temperature value. The higher the CEV, the more
The nature of steel material is that it of 75 per cent of the yield strength) difficult it is to weld.
contains some imperfections, albeit of would be approximately:
very small size. When subject to tensile Weld procedure specifications are drawn
stress these imperfections tend to open. Toughness up that set out the necessary welding
If the steel were insufficiently tough, the subgrade Limiting thickness parameters for any particular steel grade
‘crack’ would propagate rapidly, without (BS EN 10025) (mm) and weld type, to avoid embrittlement.
plastic deformation, and failure would J0 35 For the purposes of a student project, it
result. This is called ‘brittle fracture’ and J2 50 may be assumed that any thickness of
is of particular concern because of the K2 60 structural steel to the standards
sudden nature of failure. The toughness mentioned above are weldable.
of the steel, and its ability to resist this
behaviour, decreases as the temperature If steels thicker than 60mm are needed,
decreases. The requirement for other grades, to BS EN 10025-3 & 4,
toughness increases with the thickness would be needed.
of the material. Hence, thick plates in
cold climates need to be much tougher
than thin plates in moderate climates.

Corrosion protection

5 Corrosion protection
Corrosion protection is an important issue to consider
when designing and detailing steel bridges.

In the UK, the ‘design life’ of a new Thermally sprayed metallic coatings
bridge is usually taken to be 120 years. A coating of aluminium can be applied
Because ordinary structural steel will by heating the metal (in wire form) in a
rust if exposed to the elements, special ‘gun’ that sprays the molten
corrosion protection is an important metal onto the steel surface. Thermally
issue to consider when designing and sprayed aluminium coatings have been
detailing steel bridges. Corrosion applied for many years to provide long-
protection is usually achieved by the term corrosion protection to steel
application of coatings (although there bridges. The aluminium acts as a barrier
are some alternatives) which, with and is usually over-painted to form a
suitable maintenance, are capable of ‘duplex’ coating system (see Figure 5,
achieving the required design life. page 29). Such ‘duplex’ systems are
Various coating systems are currently frequently specified for Highways
available, and paint technology is Agency and Railtrack bridges, because
advancing at a rapid pace with lives to they provide a high level of corrosion
first major maintenance in excess of protection, and long life to first major
30 years anticipated for the latest systems. maintenance.

The following remarks provide a general Hot-dip galvanizing

introduction, but for more detailed Hot dip galvanizing is a process where
advice on the corrosion protection of the steel component to be coated is
steel bridges, (see Ref.6 on page 31). immersed in a bath of molten zinc and
then withdrawn. The steel surfaces are
Top: Hot-dip galvanised steel bridge, Paint coatings uniformly coated with zinc, which is
(Photo courtesy of Forestry Civil Engineering)
Scotland. Conventional painting systems involve metallurgically bonded to the structural
the application of several coats – steel. The zinc weathers at a slow rate
Above: Hardy Lane Bridge, (Example of typically a primer, undercoats and a giving a long and predictable life. In
enclosure system), Gloucestershire, England.
finishing coat, usually by spraying. addition, if any small areas of steel are
Opposite page: Shanks Millennium Bridge, Before painting, the steel surface must exposed (say through accidental
(Example of weathering steel), Peterborough, be abrasive blast cleaned to remove mill damage), then the coating provides
scale, dirt, etc. and to achieve a suitable galvanic (sacrificial) protection by
standard of surface cleanliness and corroding preferentially. However, there
profile to which the paint can adhere. are limitations on the size of
Various paint systems are specified by components that can be galvanized due
highway and railway authorities, based to the size of the zinc bath and there are
upon the environment, accessibility for potential complications when
maintenance, and the life until galvanizing welded fabrications.
maintenance of the coating is necessary.

Recently, high-build paint systems

developed for the offshore industry
have been introduced to bridge
construction. These systems achieve a
thick and durable coating in only one or
two coat applications.

Weathering steels Enclosure systems
Site Two Pack Polyurethane Finish 50µm
Weathering steel is a low alloy steel that Enclosure systems offer an alternative applied
forms an adherent, protective oxide film method of protection for the structural HB Epoxy MIO Undercoat 150µm
or ‘patina’ that, in a suitable steelwork of composite bridges, whilst Shop HB Zinc Phosphate
Epoxy Undercoat 100µm
environment, seals the surface and at the same time providing a permanent applied
inhibits further corrosion. Weathering steel access platform for inspection and Sealer Coat
bridges do not require painting. Periodic maintenance. The concept of enclosing Sprayed Aluminium 100µm
inspection and cleaning should be the the structural steelwork on composite
only maintenance required to ensure the bridges is based on the fact that clean Steel Substrate (Paint)
Blast Cleaned: Sa 3 300µm
bridge continues to perform satisfactorily. steel does not corrode significantly if
Weathering steel bridges are ideal where environmental contaminants are absent.
access is difficult or dangerous and where Nevertheless, the steel within an
future disruption needs to be minimised enclosure is usually painted, but with a Figure 5: Schematic cross-section through a
but they are not suitable in salty very modest system. Typically, typical modern high performance paint
environments, such as near the coast. For enclosures are formed from light weight
further details on weathering steel bridges durable materials such as GRP.
(see Ref.5 on page 31). However, enclosures have not been
widely used in the UK as they have
proved to be relatively expensive.

Concluding remarks

6 Concluding remarks
Steel is an ideal material for bridges, and is widely used
for all forms of bridge construction around the world.

Steel is an ideal material for bridges. interaction of the elements is to be Below: Swansea Sail Bridge,
The many advantages of steel have led encouraged as a means to good Swansea, Wales.

to it being widely used for all forms of effective design. Opposite above: Puente del Alamillo,
bridge construction around the world, Seville, Spain.
from simple beam bridges up to the The design principles for a composite
Opposite below: Puente de la Barquetta,
longest suspension bridges. However, bridge are quite straightforward and Seville, Spain.
its most widespread use in the UK over readily understandable. The codified
recent years has been on steel requirements of the design process are
composite highway bridges. more complex, reflecting the fact that
the structural behaviour of a bridge
Composite construction is an involves the interaction of many
economical and popular form of different effects. However, the
construction for highway bridges. It essentials have been condensed into a
combines high quality, factory-made ‘user-friendly’ document suitable for
products (the steel girders) with a cast students (see Ref.1 on page 31).
in-situ reinforced concrete deck slab,
utilising each element where it is most By following the steps in this elementary
economic. It is appropriate for the great guide and using the simplified
majority of spans, from 13m up to 100m Eurocodes document, students should
or more. be able to produce a basic project type
design. In doing so, they should acquire
Familiarity with the method of valuable experience which can lead
construction, an understanding of the easily into full-scale design.
part each element plays and the

References and further reading

7 References and further reading

Design code checks for Steel Construction Institute

undergraduate projects publications
1 Bridge design to the Eurocodes – For more detailed guidance on the
Simplified rules for use in design of steel bridges in full
student projects accordance with BS 5400, the SCI have
a range of publications including:
Published by SCI the Steel Construction
Institute, this document contains 7 Composite highway bridges –
‘simplified versions’ of sections of the design to the Eurocodes (P356)
Structural Eurocodes that are relevant to 8 Composite highway bridges –
the design of composite highway worked examples using the
bridges for the use of undergraduate Eurocodes (P357)
students. It is written to explain both the 9 Design guide for composite box
Eurocode code provisions and girder bridges (P140)
background concepts at easily 10 Steel Bridge Group, Guidance notes
understood levels. It is emphasised that on best practice in steel bridge
a bridge designed to this simplified construction (P185)
version will not necessarily meet all the
more detailed requirements of the Other publications
Eurocodes, but it will provide a 11 Steel Bridges, The practical aspects
reasonable solution for undergraduate of fabrication which influence
design projects. efficient design (published by British
Constructional Steelwork
Corus Brochures Association, 2002)
A number of bridge related 12 BSCA Guide to the erection of steel
publications are available from Corus, bridges (published by British
giving introductory information on a Constructional Steelwork
range of issues. These may be Association, 2005)
downloaded in ‘pdf’ format from

2 Bringing steel to life –

A comprehensive range of bridge
related products and services
3 Composite steel highway bridges
4 The design of steel footbridges
5 Weathering steel bridges
6 Corrosion protection of steel


Care has been taken to ensure that this

information is accurate, but Corus Group Ltd,
and its subsidiaries, does not accept
responsibility or liability for errors or
information which is found to be misleading.

Copyright 2007

Designed by Orchard Resourcebase

Construction Services & Development
PO Box 1
Brigg Road
North Lincolnshire
DN16 1BP
T: +44 (0) 1724 405060
F: +44 (0) 1724 404224

English version