European Commission DG VII
4th Framework Programme


BRIdge Management in Europe


Europe has a large capital investment in the road network including bridges, which are the most vulnerable element. As bridges age, deterioration caused by heavy traffic and an aggressive environment becomes increasingly significant resulting in a higher frequency of repairs and possibly a reduced load carrying capacity.

Deterioration is exacerbated because many modern structures are more prone to chemical degradation than their forerunners. The effects of alkali silica reaction, chloride ingress and carbonation exacerbated by low cover and poor quality materials are causing progressive deterioration of the bridge stock.

The direct cost of the engineering work necessary to maintain a satisfactory road network is high. However indirect costs due to the resulting traffic congestion and disruption can be much higher and cause a severe economic penalty particularly on the increasing number of roads where traffic flows are reaching saturation.

The purpose of this project is to develop the modules required for a bridge management system that enables bridges to be maintained at minimum overall cost ie taking all factors into account including effect on traffic, life of the repair and the residual life of the structure. The most appropriate maintenance strategy for a stock of bridges is a complex subject and there are a whole range of issues that determine the most economic strategy. These include:

  • condition of the structure
  • load carrying capacity
  • rate of deterioration
  • maintenance treatments available and their effectiveness, lifetime and cost
  • traffic management costs
  • traffic flow rates and the associated delay costs
  • cost of maintenance in the future discounted to present day values
  • implications for safety and traffic flow if the work is not carried out immediately.

This project will look at the various modules required to enable the bridge stock to be managed, review the current state-of-the- art and produce an outline framework for management of the bridge stock.


The overall objective of the project will be to develop a framework for the management of bridges on the European road network and identify the inputs required to implement such a system.

This will be achieved by examining the various inputs required for a bridge management system. These are as follows:

  • condition
  • load carrying capacity
  • rate of deterioration.

In addition the mechanisms by which decisions are reached will be examined ie:

  • the most appropriate action for a sub-standard or deteriorated structure ie whether it should be repaired, strengthened or replaced
  • mechanisms for prioritising bridges in terms of their need for repair, rehabilitation or improvement.

In parallel with this work a review will be undertaken of existing bridge management systems and an outline framework for a bridge management system produced.


The major target audiences for the outputs from BRIME are the bridge owners across Europe. These include:

  • National organisations responsible for management of national bridges
  • Local authorities responsible for local roads
  • National railway authorities
  • Other infrastructure owners eg waterways.

The results will both assist these organisations in day to day management of bridges and help strategically in formulation of policy.

Other organisations such as consultants who are employed to assess the load carrying capacity of bridges and test houses responsible for determining structural condition will also benefit from the outputs of workpackages 1, 2, & 3.

Finally the results will add to scientific knowledge and be of interest to scientists and researchers in organisations such as FEHRL, other research establishments and universities who may be carrying out research on related topics.

The project is being carried out at a European level under the auspices of FEHRL (Forum of European Highway Research Laboratories). This will ensure full coverage of all the variables that are likely to affect the management of a bridge stock in Europe. As this will include a wide range of climatic conditions, the conclusions will be applicable to other areas with similar climatic conditions, such as Eastern Europe and some developing countries. The project thus offers opportunities for disseminating best practice across Europe via FEHRL.