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Development of prestressed concrete bridges

The outstanding feature of concrete bridges both during and after the Second World War was the advent of prestressed concrete, used to rebuild the many bridges that had been destroyed, especially in Continental Europe. By the 1950s concrete bridges had been built using the Freyssinet and Magnel systems. In Germany in the 1960s the first in situ box girder bridge was constructed using cantilever construction. The first prestressed concrete bridge was constructed using incremental launching. (Further information on bridge construction methods can be found under Civil Engineering/Bridges.)

In the UK a stock of emergency prestressed concrete beams was held during the War and used afterwards in permanent bridgeworks. They were designed by the Prestressed Concrete Company, which was a subsidiary of Mouchel. This partnership was responsible for Nunnís Bridge, near Boston (1948), which was the first in situ prestressed concrete road bridge. Other examples were the Adam Viaduct, near Wigan (1943) and the Rhinefield Bridge, Hampshire.

The first major prestressed concrete road bridge was the replacement for Northam Bridge, Southampton (1954). Prestressed precast concrete bridge beams (see Precast/Bridges/Standard bridge beams) are widely available and are used in many applications.

Prestressing is an integral part of many forms of construction.

A paper by Smith entitled UK concrete bridges since 1940 was published in 1996, see Reference below. This starts with the application of prestressed concrete in bridges during the Second World War and then concentrates on bridges built during the first and second decades after the war, concluding with a brief overview of later developments.

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:Smith, WJR. UK concrete bridges since 1940, Proceedings of Institution of Civil Engineers, Structures and Buildings, August/November 1996, pp. 432-448.

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The development of standard prestressed concrete bridge beams

TR70 Historical approaches to the design of concrete buildings and structures