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Kingston Bridge, Glasgow
River Clyde, Anderston to Kingston, Glasgow, UK
Kingston Bridge, Glasgow
associated engineer
W.A. Fairhurst & Partners
Gifford & Partners
Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Partners
date  1967 - 1970, opened 26th June 1970, 1996 -2001
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NS579648
photo  © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
A ten-lane road bridge composed of two independent prestressed concrete spans that carry the M8 motorway over the River Clyde in Glasgow. This is the largest urban bridge in the UK, and one of the busiest. The amount of traffic that now uses it is greater than originally envisaged and the structure has had to undergo extensive strengthening works.
Kingston Bridge is part of the Glasgow Inner Ring Road scheme, first proposed in 1945 (First Planning Report to the Highways and Planning Committee of the Corporation of the City of Glasgow by Robert Bruce). Only the north and west flanks of the ring were constructed — the south and east sections were abandoned in the face of fierce public opposition.
Feasability studies for a bridge at this spot — between Anderston Quay in the north and Springfield Quay in the south — were carried out by W.A. Fairhurst & Partners. In 1962, Fairhurst was appointed consulting engineer for the detailed design of the bridge and its approaches.
On 14th December 1966, the Secretary of State for Scotland authorised a 75 percent grant towards the cost of the bridge. Construction commenced on 15th May 1967. The architect was William Halford & Associates, and the contractor a joint venture between Logan and Marples Ridgway. The eventual cost was about £2.4m excluding the approach viaducts (or around £11m in total).
The bridge consists of two independent parallel superstructures with decks 20.7m wide. Each carriageway carries five lanes of traffic, and is supported by a shared pier on each quay. The superstructures were designed to operate as three-span continuous girders but, in order to keep the river and quayside streets open during construction, they were cast in situ as free cantilevers joined at midspan.
The pair of main river spans are each 143.3m long with 18.3m clearance above high water. All the side spans are of equal length at 62.5m long. Overall length is 268.3m. Thin precast concrete panels with an exposed aggregate finish clad the bridge’s outer spandrels. The panels are suspended by stainless steel hangers from projecting top flanges and held in position by self-drilling anchor bolts. The piers incorporate tapering rounded cutwaters with horizontal joints.
The bridge girders are prestressed triple cell concrete boxes 16.2m wide with arched soffits to all spans, 10m deep at the piers reducing to 2.4m at the crowns. The bottom flanges are 915mm deep at the piers and 305mm at the crowns. The top flanges are 457mm thick (minimum) and the vertical webs 305mm. High-strength concrete was used (41.4N per sq mm cu strength after 28 days) that has a maximum compressive stress of about 10.3N per sq mm. No residual tensile stress is permitted.
Each girder is prestressed by 95 four-bar Macalloy tendons, individually stressed to almost 2MN. As the girders act continuously under superimposed load, there are tendons in the soffits at the crowns and at the end of each side span to counter tensile stresses. Single-bar Macalloy tendons, 32mm in diameter, in the webs resist shearing forces.
The two reinforced concrete piers sit on cast iron knuckle pin bearings of 10MN capacity, 24 of them under each pier. The bearings rest on 2.7m thick pile caps located behind the existing quay walls and a total of 312 steel H-piles, 305mm square and weighing 260kg per metre, carry the bridge loads from the pile caps down to bedrock. Each pier foundation also contains eight large-diameter bored piles, through which samples were taken to assess the rock's bearing capacity.
The south pier is hollow and was cast monolithically with the superstructure, forming a fixed point. The bridge is free to expand northwards — the north pier has a hinge at girder soffit level and the translational and rotational bearings at the point allow it to act as a 7.6m high rocker.
Beyond the piers, the bridge's deck passes over the side spans and onto the approach viaducts. The outer ends of the side spans are ballasted internally with concrete. Each approach is supported on two rows of columns, their shape tapered and twisted in accordance with the internal structural forces. The columns and the approach abutments are carried on piled foundations.
On 26th June 1970, Kingston Bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
However, serious defects were discovered in the late 1980s and in 1990, all thought to be caused by the high volume of traffic using the bridge — 152,000 vehicles per day in 1991. Problems included bulging of the quay wall in front of the north-west footing, concrete spalling to the rotation joint at the base of the north pier (which was leaning to the north and 165mm off vertical), slippage of the north pier rocker, bearing and expansion joint failures, and the midspan sagging of the bridge by 300mm.
The quay walls were stabilised in 1991-2, under an individual contract. Detailed bridge assessments were carried out by Gifford & Partners and Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick. In 1994, traffic restrictions were put in place.
In March 1996, a £32m contract was let to Balfour Beatty for major strengthening and remedial works. Strathclyde Regional Council’s engineering team, which became part of Glasgow City Council in April the same year, acted as agent (and client) for the project. To ensure the bridge remained within structurally safe limits at all times, performance criteria were agreed between client, engineer and contractor, and an in-depth strategy review undertaken.
The works included the installation of additional post-tensioning in the decks, reconstruction of both piers, extra piles at the south pier, and a computer-controlled jacking operation to lift, slide and temporarily support the 52,000 tonne structure while the bearings were replaced. The bridge remained in service throughout the project, with only three weekend closures.
Raising the piers from their bearings began in October 1999, using 128 hydraulic jacks to lift the whole bridge. The 1,000 tonne jacks worked to tolerances of just 0.1mm, lifting the bridge 20mm and sliding it 30mm southwards. In August 2000, the refurbished structure was lowered onto its new supports.
Unbonded external post-tensioning of approximately 85MN was installed on each deck using six 43-strand tendons and 20 11-strand tendons. They are anchored near the ballasted ends of the side spans.
To replace the piers, heavily reinforced concrete 'supplementary piers' were constructed over the pile caps on either side of the existing piers. The existing pier shafts were then removed and the new piers completed. The tapering conical end details of the original cutwaters was replicated but the body of the new piers beneath the girders is wider.
In 2001, the bridge won the Saltire Award for civil engineering excellence in Scotland and the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Brunel Medal.
Around 2014, corroded areas of the cantilevered concrete walkways and bridge parapets were replaced.
Architect: William Halford & Associates
Contractor: Logan / Marples Ridgeway joint venture
Contractor (1996-2001): Balfour Beatty
Contractor (c.2014): Morgan Est
Post-tensioning (1996-2001): Balvac Whitely Moran
Jacking (1996-2001): VSL
Research: ECPK
"The design and construction of Kingston Bridge and elevated approach roads, Glasgow" by W.A. Fairhurst, A. Beveridge and G.F. Farquhar, The Structural Engineer, January 1971
"Kingston Bridge Phase 1 Strengthening" by Matthew Collings and Ian Telford, Current and Future Trends in Bridge Design, Construction and Maintenance, Vol.2, pp.225-235, Thomas Telford, London, 2001
reference sources   CEH SLB

Kingston Bridge, Glasgow