16 September 2021

Reliability and Safety of Bridges: Joint Online Lecture Held by SPbGASU and UMinho

On September 14, Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering and the University of Minho (Portugal) held the first joint online lecture on current issues and challenges in ensuring reliability and safety of bridges.

Opening the joint lecture

1. Презентация Жозе Матоша. Превентивный сценарий работы с объектом

Presentation by José C. Matos.
Bridge quality control: preventive actions

The lecture included presentations by José C. Matos, Professor at the University of Minho, PhD, ISISE member, Chairman of COST Action TU1406, coordinator of SustIMS and SAFEWAY research projects, and Anton Syrkov, Associate Professor at the SPbGASU Department of Roads, Bridges and Tunnels, Head of the Transport Structures Life-Cycle Department at Transmost JSC.

Opening the event, SPbGASU Vice Rector for External Relations and Youth Policy Irina Lugovskaia noted that safe and efficient construction and operation of bridges is one of the key areas of interest for the two institutions in terms of bilateral scientific and technological cooperation.

“Thanks to the active participation of Professor José Matos, we have been able to start collaboration and launch our academic mobility programmes: so, this year, one of our Civil Engineering students has already started his exchange year, and a PhD student is soon planning a research internship at UMinho,” she added.

In his presentation, Professor Matos focused on bridge quality control and its role for the decision-making in maintenance management. 

✔ For example, some bridges start to collapse too early due to errors in design or construction. This process can also be exacerbated by external factors such as increased workloads and natural phenomena. The full impact of these factors can be assessed by means of a quality control framework, which involves visual inspection of the bridge, examination of its individual components without putting it out of service, and performance monitoring. These actions require a comprehensive approach.

"It's like going to the doctor: you need not only an external examination, but also a medical history to get the right diagnosis," explains José Matos.

The control of bridges must include an assessment of several parameters: reliability (assessing the probability of structural failure or operational failure); availability (the proportion of time the system is in a functioning condition); economic efficiency (minimizing long-term costs); safety and environmental friendliness. With the help of mathematical methods, the condition of the structure is expressed in numerical values used to take a decision regarding the necessary corrective measures: the structure can be modified, or completely rebuilt. In case of proposing a preventive scenario, everything possible is done to prevent deterioration: the maintenance and operational regime is adjusted accordingly.

José C. Matos is convinced that modern technology makes it possible to assess the reliability of bridges with the utmost precision. For this purpose, he suggests using automated decision-making systems that take into account all relevant parameters, including meteorological factors.

Anton Syrkov spoke about lessons that can be learned from the history of bridge construction. According to TG 1.5 IABSE international expert group, which develops solutions to improve bridge safety, the number of bridge collapses in the world is very high. For example, in India more than 2,130 structures have collapsed in the last 40 years, as well as 1,062 in the USA during the past 30 years. At the same time, since not all cases are highly publicized, the real figures could be even higher. It is not uncommon for bridge collapses to result in loss of life. 

In addition to natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, tsunamis), fires and riverboat collisions with bridges, the collapses can also be caused by errors in design and construction or unseen structural defects that develop during the operation. The latter is one of the most dangerous factors. It can be avoided by regular risk assessment using mathematical modelling methods. It will not only increase the operational reliability of bridges, but can also help avoid economic losses from forced demolition of irreversibly damaged structures.

The next important step in developing cooperation between SPbGASU and UMinho will be a joint Summer School on bridge construction and operation to be held in 2022. The programme is currently under development and will soon be available for participant registration.


Text: Alexandra Podolnikova

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