Forth Road Bridge monitoring technology to be used on China's biggest bridges

 Forth Road Bridge445
30 May 2016 08:00:00.000

An innovative new monitoring system, developed by The University of Nottingham, is about to be installed on two of the world’s largest bridges in China, over the Yangtse River.

The system, known as GeoSHM (GNSS and Earth Observation for Structural Health Monitoring), is currently being used to monitor the movement of the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, one of the longest bridges in Europe.

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Suspension bridges are designed to have a certain degree of flexibility, in order to handle forces from wind, traffic loads and temperature changes. However, it is difficult for engineers to know exactly how much a bridge is moving at any point in time, or what constitutes an abnormal degree of movement for each particular bridge.

Analysing bridge movements
Dr. Xiaolin Meng, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Centre, together with colleagues at the Nottingham Geospatial Institute and international team members, has been researching the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Earth Observation technologies, to provide a comprehensive analysis of the movement of bridges.

GeoSHM is a real-time system that was installed on the Forth Road Bridge in September 2014. During December 2015, a truss end link fractured at the North East tower of the Forth Road Bridge. The University of Nottingham worked with Amey to assess the behaviour of the bridge under load tests and high winds, using GNSS receivers, weather sensors and other structural health monitoring sensors to assess the behaviour of the bridge in real time.

After the crack was found on the Bridge, one lane was closed in order to perform maintenance works. This subjected the bridge to abnormal loading, and at the same time, it was also experiencing extreme weather conditions with winds of up to 80 MPH.

Safety advice
Based on the observations, The University of Nottingham was able to advise Amey, the company responsible for maintaining the Forth Road Bridge, on the combination of abnormal loading and adverse weather required for the bridge to close, and also on the appropriate conditions for the re-opening of the bridge.

The GeoSHM consortium was led by The University of Nottingham during its feasibility study stage on the Forth Bridge, and the University is now about to install the system on two of the world’s largest bridges in China during the demonstration stage of the project. Both the GeoSHM feasibility and demonstration projects are funded under the ARTES Integrated Applications Promotions programme of the European Space Agency.

The second phase of GeoSHM project has received funding of 2.3m Euros by the European Space Agency and other sponsors, including Transport Scotland. Last autumn, a major Chinese bridge design institution - China Rail Major Bridge Reconnaisance and Design Institute (BRDI), a subsidiary of China Railway Group, Asia’s largest construction company, agreed to invest an additional 600,000 Euros in the project in order for further tests to be conducted on bridges in China.

Understanding responses to wind speed and loads
Speaking about the GeoSHM technology, at the formal launch event at BRDI in Wuhan, Dr Meng said: “By being able to monitor bridge conditions in real time, the GeoSHM system ensures that maintenance can be more accurately targeted, reducing costs and improving safety. The continuous monitoring of bridge movements also means that it is possible to gain a more detailed understanding of the bridge and how it responds to changes in wind speed and directions and different loads.”

“I am delighted that we are now launching GeoSHM in China, in partnership with BRDI, where we will be monitoring two of the biggest bridges over the Yangtze River in China. I hope that this is just the start of a long and mutually-beneficial relationship with the company.”

Identifying problems at an early stage
Speaking about the collaboration with Nottingham, Professor Daoming Tian, President of BRDI, said: “I believe that the use of geospatial technology will become increasingly important in the building and monitoring of bridges in future. BRDI is very much looking forward to working with The University of Nottingham to further develop this technology in order to to fully explore its potential for both increasing safety and identifying problems with bridges at an early stage.”

For more information about the GeoSHM technology and the Sino-UK Geospatial Engineering Centre, please contact Dr Xiaolin Meng, on

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


Story credits

For more information about the GeoSHM project, please email Xiaolin Meng or tel: +44(0)115 84 66029
Nick King  

Nick King - Marketing and Communications Manager, Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 74 86727 Location: Coates Building, Faculty of Engineering, University Park Nottingham

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