Belfast Telegraph

Action needed to protect railway bridges from erosion, report warns

Eighty safety projects are needed to protect railway bridges from erosion, an expert report on climate change has said.

A Government consultation on how the transport sector will cope with hotter summers, wetter winters and bigger storms revealed that work has already been carried out on 12 bridges in the past three years.

Analysis for Irish Rail has already warned that scouring - wear and tear from water on foundations and support piers - is a major issue because of their location on fast-flowing rivers.

And it was also told that the material used in foundations is only known in 10% of the 475 bridges over water.

The Department of Transport's report revealed that railway bridges are being inspected by divers every one, thre e or six years depending on a risk rating.

About 2.5 million euro has been spent on this since 2009 - the year of a near -disastrous collapse of a section of a bridge over the Broadmeadow Estuary near Swords on the main Dublin-to-Belfast line.

Work on the 80 other projects to combat erosion is being prioritised based on what inspections reveal and another project is investigating the make-up and depth of foundations on bridges.

The report warned that many older masonry bridges, some 150 years old, have shallow foundations and it cited the UK example where bridge scour cause s one bridge failure a year on average .

Elsewhere in the department's climate change consultation paper it was noted that up to 500km of Ireland's coastline is actively being eroded and is " at risk".

One of the stretches carries the rail line to Rosslare and parts are forecast to be under threat by 2030.

Dozens of options across the transport sectors have been put forward in the document, with interested parties and the public asked to submit their opinions by February.

On the roads, the plan calls for the identification of "hotspots" that would be most at risk from climate change.

A review of the design of buses is also called for, including options for better thermal insulation and making air conditioning standard while management is urged to have better flood risk management in depots.

Aside from the issues of flooding and erosion at bridges and coastal railway lines, Irish Rail was urged to consider further research on how heat stress will impact on passengers.

At airports, the plan suggests improved drainage will be needed, as well as better temperature controls in terminals.

The idea of a new rail line linking Shannon Airport with the Limerick-Ennis line should also be proofed against climate change, the report said.

Also in aviation, the plan urges continued investment in instrument landing systems, enhanced surveillance and weather forecasting such as runway temperature sensors and improved ground equipment for clearing snow.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said: "Recent experiences of extreme weather events have demonstrated some of the vulnerabilities of our transport infrastructure and services.

"It is vital that we seek to future-proof the efficient functioning of our transport system so that we can continue to accrue the many benefits of transport to the Irish economy."

"This initial, high-level plan will help us to build capacity within our structures and organisations to better understand the implications of climate change for Ireland and how it may impact on transport infrastructure and services at a national, regional and local level."

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