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There are many forms of arch bridges, ranging from those built from traditional construction materials such as stone blocks or masonry (brick) to those using more modern materials, such as steel and concrete. Regardless of the material types however, these structures form an important historical and engineering component of existing road, rail and waterway infrastructure. It is known, for example, that 60% of the UK and Ireland rail bridges are arch bridges.

With projected increases in traffic loading, questions are currently being asked about the safety of this existing bridge stock. Of particular interest is the behaviour of masonry arch bridges, which, in general, may have demonstrated significant resilience over their 120 year life, but are now beginning to shows signs of distress. There are approximately 70,000 masonry arch bridge spans on the UK road and rail networks alone, and roughly 1,000,000 such spans worldwide. Clearly, since these are integral to our transport infrastructure coupled with their significant heritage value, the safe management of these structures is critical.

The key focus of this research project is understanding the behaviour of arch structures under load and how this behaviour can be incorporated into bridge assessment as part of an effective management process.