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Building Australian bridges that last

General manager of Mageba Australia Virendra Ghodke discusses the need to build sustainable bridges

Bridges are the glue that connects Australia’s vast network of roads and infrastructure. Without well-designed, sustainable bridges, the intricate connections that keep our transport network running smoothly are at serious risk of failure. 

Thanks to a history of inadequate bearings and joints, asset owners have historically been forced to shut down the entire rail network at all-too-regular intervals to replace parts and get our bridges in safe working order. The cost of the labour, planning, equipment, and shutdown of the network put a huge strain on the entire network. 

Let’s just take one use case for Australia’s bridges from the mining industry, for example. The average mining train carries around $26 million of iron ore, and they run about 35 to 40 trains each day. One single day of disruption equates to billions of lost dollars. 

We shouldn’t be replacing parts every five years. The technology and knowledge available to us today mean we should only need to maintain our bridges every 25 years, and fully replace parts after 50 or even 100 years. 

From safety to sustainability to simply saving more money; building bridges that last has a hugely positive ripple effect throughout the entire engineering industry. Thankfully, recent changes to the Australian Standard Code have made that wish a reality. 

Updates to the Australian Standard Code

Before 2017, the Australian Standard code (AS 5100 (Bridge Design)) lacked guidance or even firm instructions around certain parts of bridge bearings that were making them wear out all too quickly.

Mageba eventually discovered the root cause of the problem: the internal seal inside the bearings was not up to the mark. The Mageba team took the issue to the Australian Standards Australia code committee along with a proposed solution to bring Australia up to the global standard. 

Eventually, the code was revised with firm guidance as to which kind of material can be used on railway bridges. Once the new update was published in 2017, every new bridge had to be designed with these new updates in mind. 

Since then, more than 18 heavy haulage rail bridges around Australia have been updated with the new technology outlined in the code. One example can be found in the 1.5km-long east coast connection bridge in eastern Australia on the coastal route between Sydney and Brisbane, with modular expansion joints designed by Mageba in compliance with the updated code.

Another example can be found on the Gold Coast. Its city council decided to upgrade the 60-year-old Isle of Capri Bridge, an important structure that provides access from the city

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