BridgeCAT, the pioneering mobile-bridge inspection system developed by Gaist and Cumbria County Council and funded by the Department for Transport, is being deployed in Herefordshire to help assess the flood damage following last month’s devastating storms.
BridgeCAT uses a sonar device, depth sensor and underwater camera to provide detailed information about a bridge’s condition.
Launched in response to the 2015/6 winter storms which left areas of the North devastated by flooding, the pioneering technology seeks to significantly reduce the time taken to reopen bridges – and re-connect communities.
The traditional inspection methods for identifying problems such as ‘bridge scour’ – the removal of sediment from around bridge piers which can compromise the integrity of the structure – uses divers. That has limitation in terms of the quality of data collected, the efficiency of the process and the risk to the individual inspector.
In contrast, the BridgeCAT system allows the rapid collection of evidential data that can provide confidence in diagnosing issues such as scour. Having undergone a trial period in Cumbria, BridgeCAT looks set to play an instrumental role in flood resilience and in monitoring the ongoing condition of bridge stock by enabling councils to harness detailed, accurate data about their bridge stock and plan and prioritise maintenance and repair works more effectively.
The deployment of BridgeCAT in Herefordshire follows the wettest February in the UK since records began in 1862, with more than three times the average rainfall. Three successive storms left rivers bursting their banks and communities flooded.
In some of the worst-hit areas in the Midlands, Wales and south Yorkshire, homes and businesses flooded three times in just a few weeks.
This weekend, Boris Johnson visited Bewdley in Worcestershire, where the River Severn overtopped the flood defences during Storm Dennis. His visit was tied to a Treasury announcement of plans to double funding for flood defences in England over the next five years.
Jesse Norman, the MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, welcomed BridgeCAT’s deployment in the county. The MP was an early promoter of the system when he was Roads Minister.