Next generation footbridges hailed a long-lasting alternative

This story was published 22 November 2021

New state-of-the-art footbridges have been introduced across North Yorkshire as part of a pioneering shift to find a more future-proof alternative.

Low Fraggergill bridge

When replacing damaged timber bridges, we have been sourcing those made of a Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) material which is widely used in boat and car manufacturing.

A deciding factor is the 120 year plus design life; almost five or six times the expected life of steel. They are anti-slip, won’t rot or break and require very little maintenance.

The bridges are made in Holland and have been used on nationwide design projects. Although some firms in England use the material, none currently supply the type of single span bridges we are looking for.

The first FRP footbridge in North Yorkshire was installed in Bird Ridding, Leyburn, in 2016 after the trees damaged the lightweight steel frame footbridge and it became rotten with the supporting joints severely damaged.

“At the time FRP bridges became a viable option as the long-term costs compare very well with the cost of a steel bridge,” said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access.

“Unlike steel bridges they do not require a lot of maintenance; they don’t need painting every 25 years, are resistant to even the most extreme weather conditions and only require occasional cleaning.

“The first bridge in Bird Ridding was well-received by the local community as each bridge is designed to suit the location. It shows that we are being forward-thinking in sourcing these future-proof bridges which fit very well in North Yorkshire’s conservation areas.”

The East Row footbridge in Sandsend was placed in 2019 as the road bridge was deemed too narrow to facilitate a footpath. The FRP material was chosen as due to the coastal location it needs to cope with extreme weather conditions and be resistant to corrosive salt in the atmosphere.

The old footbridge on Low Green in Great Ayton was replaced with an FRP alternative as the bridges team could install a single span bridge which is in-keeping with other wooden bridges downstream and does not need painting during its lifetime.

An FRP footbridge is due to be installed in Low Faggergill near Whaw in 2022, as due to flood damage the span of the new bridge will be so great a timber footbridge is not viable. Through and open tender process the FRP options came back cheaper than a more traditional steel beam and timber deck bridge. 

Councillor Mackenzie added: "There are many practical benefits in the use of FRP for certain of our bridges. It provides a very strong structure but is much lighter than steel. It is easier to handle and lift, saving time and money on construction costs, especially in remote areas.

"We will continue to ensure that each new or replacement bridge is in keeping with the local environment. We are confident that the FRP bridges will stand the test of time and provide appealing structures for everyone who uses them.”