Parts of the Menai Bridge are in a brittle state and have deteriorated in the last three years, Senydd members were told this week.
Deputy Minister, Lee Waters delivered an Oral Statement providing the latest updates on the Menai Bridge in which he said the structure was the responsibility of a private company, UK Highways A55 Ltd, under agreemenets for maintenance of the A55 Trunk Road across North Wales.
As part of their maintenance responsibility UK Highways have been carrying out inspections on the bridge to an industry standard at 2 year and 6 year intervals.
The General Inspection every two years are visual inspections where all parts of the structure are examined, typically using binoculars or aerial drone surveys.
The Principal Inspection every six years involves close examination of all inspectable parts of the bridge within touching distance. The in-depth survey includes visual inspections as well as specialist techniques such as hammer tap surveys of concrete, or corrosion measurement.
As part of the last Principal inspection in 2019 a concern about the resilience of hangers which support the suspension bridge were identified and a weight restriction was imposed on the bridge while further studies were carried out. The latest inspection was reported to the Welsh Government last Wednesday and it unexpectedly highlighted an immediate concern around the brittle failure mechanism of the hangers.
As is standard practice, officials reviewed and challenged the findings, however, based on very clear advice from structural engineers it was considered there was no other option but to close the bridge while further checks on the analysis is undertaken by an independent consultant.
This is not a decision that was taken lightly. I fully appreciate the implications that this will have for local people especially without any advance warnings. However, the safety of our network and the travelling public is paramount and the decision has been based upon the safety recommendations from the structural engineers.
The findings that led to the recommendation to close the bridge are currently being reviewed. The initial review will take up to two weeks. Officials along with stakeholders are assessing all available options to reopen the bridge as soon as possible.
Temporary hanger strengthening works may need to be installed to ensure the safety and integrity of the Menai Bridge. This programme could take between 14-16 weeks, with the bridge reopening to vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes in early 2023.
I am acutely aware of the inconvenience this is causing. Clearly the Menai Bridge is a vital link for the people of north Wales and beyond and I’d like to thank local people for their patience and understanding whilst this urgent work takes place.
I also want to reassure them that Welsh Government is working with UK Highways and all stakeholders, including emergency services, to ensure this can be done as quickly and safely as possible.
All vehicular traffic is now being diverted to the Britannia Bridge. Welsh Government officials are urgently working on further contingency plans in the area and will continue to monitor the congestion issues to inform future changes.
They are also developing further strategies to increase resilience on the Britannia Bridge to mitigate the risk of both bridges being closed in exceptional circumstances.
I can confirm that following discussions with UK Highways and their structural experts, it has been agreed that the footway across the bridge can be re-opened for pedestrians and dismounted cyclists. Pedestrians must remain on the footways and numbers will be limited with monitoring taking place.
Officials are working with UK Highways to help limit the impact on emergency services and allow their vehicles, which weigh less than 7.5 tonnes, across the Menai Bridge if the A55 Britannia Bridge is closed. This will be subject to the emergency services meeting certain criteria and the traffic management, put in place by UK Highways, is safe to allow this to happen.
The effects of the closure are in their infancy. Officials are already considering the impacts and will continue to monitor the road network to see what can be done to ease congestion.
I will be providing further updates as things progress. I would also encourage local people to visit the Welsh Government and Traffic Wales websites and social media channels to keep up to date with the latest information.
Once again, I am extremely grateful to everyone this will affect. We will do everything within our power to reopen the bridge as soon as it safe to do so.”