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Development of precast concrete bridges

It is uncertain when precast concrete was introduced into the UK but early applications revolved around railway footbridges, with the Southern Railway leading the way at Oxshott, Surrey (1908) and Exeter (1923). An outstanding precast arch structure of the time was at Mizen Head, Cork (1908), which had a span of 172 ft (52 m).

By the 1950s precast segments were being joined by concrete or mortar. In Continental Europe, cantilever construction and incremental launching were introduced in the 1960s. In the UK, precast segmental construction was first used for the Hammersmith Flyover (1961). Resin joints between precast units were first used in 1968 at Rawcliffe, Yorkshire, and match casting of precast units for segmental construction was introduced in 1979 for the Byker Viaduct, Newcastle. (Further information on bridge construction methods can be found under Civil Engineering/Bridges.)

A paper by Chrimes entitled The development of concrete bridges in the British Isles prior to 1940 was published in 1996, see Reference below. This traces the the use of concrete for bridges in the British Isles from its 19th century origins to the outbreak of the Second World War. 

Concrete Society Technical Report 70, Historical approaches to the design of concrete buildings and structures, reviews the development of design standards for bridges and gives information on how concrete and steel design strengths have developed over the years.


Acknowledgement: Concrete Bridge Development Group


Other references:Chrimes, MM. ´The development of concrete bridges in the British Isles prior to 1940´, Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, Structures and Buildings, August/December 1996, pp. 404-431.


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TR70 Historical approaches to the design of concrete buildings and structures