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BRIDGE

Bridge construction is at the heart of VSL’s experience and expertise in providing innovative, reliable solutions and acting as a specialist partner to owners and contractors.

  • Omo Bridge
    Recovery and upgrading of a collapsed 128m-long steel bridge.
    Ethiopia - 2013 read more

    PROJECT REFERENCE+

    Omo Bridge

  • Hale Street Link Bridge
    VSL’s role as a sub-Alliance partner, providing the bulk of the team required for construction of this sensitive project.
    Australia - 2009 read more

    PROJECT REFERENCE+

    Hale Street Link Bridge

  • Devanahalli-Hebbal Elevated Expressway
    Construction of a viaduct and flyover.
    India - 2012 read more

    PROJECT REFERENCE+

    Devanahalli-Hebbal Elevated Expressway

  • Chennai Metro
    Construction of a 6km viaduct to carry a new rail line.
    India - 2012 read more

    PROJECT REFERENCE+

    Chennai Metro

Each bridge is a unique structure

The method of construction normally goes hand in hand with bridge design and both depend upon many factors and constraints. These include - but are not limited to - economy of construction, availability and cost of local resources, environmental issues (such as traffic and protected areas), the geography of the landscape (including valleys on land or the depth of the sea bed for marine structures), the ground bearing capacity and quality, and other design requirements such as geometry, loadings and planned service life. As such, every bridge is indeed a prototype, and its shape and layout result from the careful consideration of all these factors.

VSL has evolved from a specialist post-tensioning company into a multi-discipline bridge partner, capable of providing contractors and engineers with construction and engineering services for highly complex and demanding projects.

VSL has extensive experience and expertise in bridge construction, with more than 100,000 precast bridge deck segments erected over the last 20 years. This represents more than 5,000,000m² and includes more than 150 cable-stayed bridges, some of which are among the world’s longest. VSL develops project-specific construction systems and methods that promote highly efficient rates of construction and help ensure that programmes are met while maintaining - and indeed enhancing - essential safety and quality control measures.

VSL’s products and services

VSL provides turnkey bridge construction services from pre-tender design assistance to execution of the entire project, including:

  • Conceptional design, design optimisation and alternatives, detailing and construction engineering
  • design, supply and installation of post-tensioning
  • design, supply and installation of stay cables
  • design, fabrication and commissioning of specialised formwork and erection equipment for bridge construction, using techniques including span by span, balanced cantilever (precast or in situ), incremental launching, the precast beam method, full-span precasting and heavy lifting
  • management and operation of the above for the full construction of bridges
  • design and implementation of protection solutions, including blast protection for bridge structures.

Advantages of VSL’s services

  • VSL is committed to providing full support during the development and execution of the project and offers a flexible contracting approach from a straight sub-contract to a fully integrated partnership, such as joint ventures or alliances.
  • World leader in specialist bridge construction engineering and associated technologies and services
  • A strong local partner belonging to an international group
  • Access to a wealth of experience and expertise through VSL’s technical centres, which provide support from preliminary design to construction engineering
  • Availability of a large pool of equipment that can be customised using VSL’s own engineering and operational resources to suit each project’s needs
  • A team of specialists capable of rapid mobilisation for any fast-track and/or complex project

Contributing to sustainable solutions

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  • Concrete bridges are economical structures both at the time of construction and in use, as their maintenance requirements are lower than for equivalent steel structures.
  • VSL’s technical capabilities allow the reuse of items of heavy equipment through customisation to meet different project configurations.
  • VSL’s designs aim to reduce the amount of waste material, minimise the social impact of congestion caused by construction, and cost less per year of service over the life of the bridge.
  • The stay cables are designed to resist the most aggressive environments and are fully replaceable, should it prove necessary.
  • VSL’s dampers for cable-stayed bridges mitigate fatigue thus avoiding long-term damage and extending the structure’s service life.
  • A VSL strand lifting unit has a capacity to lift 300-500 times its own weight. As such, the resources required to mobilise the equipment are minimised, which helps make heavy lifting an environmentally friendly solution.
  • Strengthening a bridge or viaduct enables VSL to extend its life, enhancing the capacity to accommodate new loading requirements.
  • Special tendon protection is available, including electrically isolated tendon (EIT) solutions for an extended life.

Post-tensioning

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Post-tensioning of concrete plays a vital role in bridge construction. The recent increases in span lengths have been made possible by this technology, which has allowed bridges to evolve from essentially compressed structures of masonry and arches to thin and elegant designs. Post-tensioning is generally used to secure the concrete elements together during construction as well as forming part of the permanent structure.

On bridge deck structures, the layout of the post-tensioning varies greatly with the methods of segmentation and construction.

GC anchorage

The main elements of the layout depend on the method of construction adopted:

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Post-tensioning

More on Post-tensioning Strand system

More on Post-tensioning Bar system

Stay cables

Stay cables are high-tensile tendons anchored at the deck and running inclined to a pylon that supports the structure from above. They allow structures to be light and efficient, and to span very long distances of 1,000m and above.

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River Leven Bridge
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Industrial Ring Road

More on Stay cables system

Heavy lifting

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VSL’s Heavy lifting method is very effective for bridge construction, where loadings are generally high and elements often have to be erected at a considerable height. As a result, segments of a bridge deck can be constructed at ground level and then lifted into position using heavy lifting methods. Heavy lifting equipment may also be used as part of specialist systems, such as the lifting frames of erection gantries, where it can be used to replace heavy winches.

More on Heavy lifting

Stonecutters Bridge

Formwork and specialised equipment

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High Speed Rail C215

Bridges are generally large and complex structures built to span obstacles and as such their construction requires specialised equipment and methods.

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Hodariyat Bridge

For precast bridges, specialist formwork systems are used to produce the complex and heavy structural elements such as beams, segments or even full spans. These are then transported and erected using large and sophisticated equipment such as gantries and lifting frames.

Specialist heavy equipment also has to be deployed for bridges that are cast in situ. This ensures efficient construction that takes account of the methods, cycles and loads required.

More on Formwork and specialised equipment

Bearings and movement joints

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Bearing

Bridges are substantial structures that are subject to external forces and affected by weather conditions. As such, they are designed to accommodate changes and normally rest on special bearings allowing horizontal and/or vertical movements. They are connected to the rest of the structure with expansion joints, which allow for thermal movement and horizontal displacement due to external loadings.

Movenement joints

More on Bearing

More on Movement joints

Precast or in-situ construction

Few bridge decks can be poured in a single operation. Most are constructed in stages, with the decks generally formed from elements by dividing them either longitudinally into beams or transversely into segments. Some very wide structures may be divided in both directions. Other methods can include working with larger elements for the construction of full spans.

Bridge elements are either precast before erection or cast in their final position. There are different methods available for activating the bridge deck’s structural performance progressively so that it becomes self-supporting.

The precast elements are usually erected using specialist equipment adapted to suit the method of construction. They are then secured together using post-tensioning.

Bridge deck segmentation

Example of longitudinal segmentation

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N-S Link
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Palau Island Bridge

Segments may be I beams, U beams or T beams.

The segments are generally precast and erected by crane or by special erection equipment, such as a gantry or lifting frame. They may also be cast in situ, although this is rare.

Precast I or T beams are normally topped with a concrete layer that is cast in situ to tie together all of the elements. This also provides the running surface for the traffic as well as forming a compression member for the structure when in service.

Example of transverse segmentation

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The choice of segmentation leads to different erection methods, which also depend on whether the structure is to be cast in situ or precast.

Various methods are available for the construction of cast-in-situ schemes:

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  • span by span on falsework
  • span by span on a movable scaffolding system (MSS)
  • the free cantilever method (FCM)
  • the incremental launching method (ILM)

Precast segmental schemes are constructed using the methods of:

  • span by span, erected over falsework or using erection gantries (overhead or underslung)
  • the free cantilever method (FCM), using cranes, lifting frames or gantries
  • fully precast deck, using special launching equipment

Segments can consist of either single or multiple cells :

Transversally, decks can be made up of one of more segments:

Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2000-2001
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Second Gateway Bridge, Brisbane

The economics of building a bridge depend upon the balance between various parameters including span lengths, site constraints, available budget, aesthetics, deck height and the choice of bridge type.

Depending on the construction method, it is generally accepted that the most economical type of bridge for a given span length follows some general guidelines:

  • Post-tensioned precast or in-situ bridges for span lengths from 30m to 150m. Precast beam bridges can span up to 50m and are recognised as being the most economical. Precast segmental bridges are visually more pleasing and allow longer spans. Within that range, span-by-span construction allows bridges to be built with spans up to about 50m, while the balanced cantilever method allows them to reach 150m or more.
  • Arch bridges, for spans up to 500m
  • Cable-stayed bridges, for spans up to about 1,000m
  • Suspension bridges, for spans of up to approximately 2,000m

The above classification may vary and limits are pushed ever further as calculation methods and material performance evolve over time. However, a different bridge type may be chosen for a given span in order to meet other primary requirements such as budget considerations, aesthetics or site constraints.

VSL combines all its available technologies very effectively to provide a complete range of construction methods for precast segmental, cast-in-situ and cable-stayed bridges.

1. Precast segmental applications

1.1. Balanced cantilever erection with launching gantry

Best suited for:
  • Structures that are curved in plan as it can accommodate a radius as low as 180m
  • Spans can be as long as 100m, with a cantilever of 50m
Advantages include:
  • The ability to deliver segments along the completed deck to the rear of the gantry, which minimises disruption to existing traffic
  • The temporary works require little ground improvement and are generally at deck level or above, thus minimising disruption to existing roads, structures and services
  • Reduced requirement for support craneage as the temporary works can be relocated by gantry
  • Clear, unobstructed access to all work fronts with the gantry system
  • Work can proceed on multiple fronts within the gantry so that pier segment erection, cantilever construction and closure pour construction can take place simultaneously even though the gantry must progress linearly
  • Introduction of the temporary loads directly into the piers. Temporary supports may be introduced below the cantilevers, though this may require upgrading of the permanent structure.
  • Fast rates of erection – VSL regularly achieves up to six pairs of segments per shift
Construction schematic:

Overhead gantries can be used.

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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

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Waiwera Viaduct, New Zealand, 2007-2008
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Telok Blangah road - Singapore – 2001
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1.2. Balanced cantilever erection with lifting frames

Best suited for:
  • Any structures that are curved in plan as any radius length can be accommodated
  • Spans lengths are only limited by the permanent structure’s capacity
  • Sites with limited access as the frames can be designed to pick up segments at the piers and transport them to the cantilever tip. This means that, if necessary, access need only be provided at the pier.
  • Frames can be designed to pick up segments at the piers, and transport them to the cantilever tip, either from below or above the cantilever. As such, access need only be provided at the pier.
Advantages include:
  • Relatively simple temporary works requirements
  • High rates of erection
  • Allows the erection of large segments
  • Enables multiple levels of segment alignment and adjustment
  • Strand lifting units can be used, providing additional levels of safety
  • Frames can be operated independently at each end of the cantilever
  • Frames can be equipped with winches or strand lifting units. The lifting units reduce weight while allowing lifting speeds of up to 20m per hour.
  • Optimised crew cycles
  • Erection fronts can be moved from one pier to the next, whether adjacent or not. This allows the construction to continue uninterrupted, even if there is a problem at one pier.
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

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Serembam Middle Ring Road, Phase 2, Malaysia, 2009
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West Tsing Yi viaduct - Hong Kong – 2004-2005
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1.3. Balanced cantilever erection with cranes

Best suited for:
  • Sites without access restrictions, provided that the ground conditions are suitable to accommodate cranes
  • Any structures that are curved in plan as any radius length can be accommodated
  • Spans lengths are only limited by the permanent structure’s capacity
Advantages include:
  • Minimises the requirement for temporary works
  • Highly effective, allowing fast rates of erection with a typical erection cycle of six segments a day
  • Allows work on multiple fronts
  • Optimised crew size
  • Minimises the requirement for specialist engineering
  • Cranes are generally readily available in the market
  • The cranes can be used to carry out other activities
  • Erection fronts can move from one pier to the next, whether adjacent or not. This allows the construction to continue uninterrupted, even if there is a problem at one pier.
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

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Lai Chi Kok – Hong Kong (2004-2005)
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Shatin T3, Hong Kong, 2007
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1.4. Span-by-span erection with launching gantry

Best suited for:
  • Spans length of up to about 40m because of weight constraints, although spans of up to 60m are possible
  • Long bridges with many regular spans, as the speed of construction is high
  • Straight bridges as the method cannot accommodate sharp curvatures in plan
Advantages include:
  • The flexibility to use gantries that are overhead (above the deck) or underslung (below the deck, with support for the segments normally provided below the wings).
  • Fast erection rates possible using external post-tensioning - VSL has achieved rates exceeding a span every 24 hours. Typical cycles of six to eight shifts are achieved, depending on whether cast-in-situ stitches are needed at the supporting structure.
  • The flexibility of delivering segments either along the completed deck to the rear of gantry or at ground level
  • Crew sizes are smaller than for balanced cantilever construction
  • Allows good access to all work fronts from within the gantry
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

Hosur elevated highway - India - 2009
Humin road - China
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Gautrain - South Africa - 2010
Gautrain - South Africa - 2010
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1.5. Precast beam method

Best suited for:
  • Spans length of up to about 50m because of weight constraints, although spans of up to 60m are possible
  • Long bridges with many regular spans, as the speed of construction is high
  • Straight bridges as the equipment used means that the method cannot necessarily accommodate sharp curvatures in plan
Advantages include:
  • Fast rates of erection
  • Relatively simple erection by gantry or crane
  • The ability to deliver beams along the completed deck to the rear of the gantry, which minimises disruption to existing traffic
  • Small crew size
  • Minimises the need for geometry control
  • Precast beam production is relatively simple and requires only low levels of mechanisation
  • Overall, the method is quite simple, does not require specialist skills and as such is very economical - although the final structure may not be as appealing as a box segment design
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:
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VSL reference projects include

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N-S Link, Jakarta, Indonesia, 1991
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Palau Island Bridge, Palau, 2005
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1.6. Full-span precast method

Best suited for:
  • Spans lengths of up to about 30m to 35m, due to weight constraints. The approach is generally used for heavy structures, such as those for railways and LRT, as the permanent structure has to be capable of supporting the high temporary loads
  • Long bridges with many spans, as the speed of construction is high. Spans have to be regular in length.
  • Bridges without sharp curvatures in plan between the spans because of the nature of the equipment used
Advantages include:
  • Very high rate of production, with very high quality precast units made under factory conditions. The rate of erection achieved for the Taiwan high speed rail project was almost two spans per day on average.
  • Minimal follow up work
  • Delivery of elements to the rear of gantry along the completed deck, therefore minimising disruption to existing traffic networks. No ground improvement is required.
  • Reduced on-site activities, improved safety and environmental impact
  • Minimal additional temporary works are required
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:
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VSL reference projects include

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C215 - Taiwan - 2002
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C215 - Taiwan - 2002
MORE+

1.7. Span-by-span erection on falsework

Best suited for:
  • Places where the ground conditions are suitable for the falsework. This often requires significant ground improvement works to avoid compromising safety.
  • Open sites without congested areas, as any traffic may be disrupted by the falsework
  • Straight or curved structures with a radius in plan of 180m or more
  • Spans lengths are only limited by the permanent structure’s capacity
  • Relatively low structures because of height limitations imposed by the equipment used
Advantages include:
  • Only limited engineering work is required
  • Choice of segment delivery methods - segments are normally delivered at ground level, although they can also be delivered at the back and picked up with loading frames. This reduces the impact on the ground as well as the requirement for craneage.
  • The modular support system can be relocated with ease and relatively quickly
  • Work can proceed on multiple fronts, and the structure does not have to be erected linearly
  • Production crew size is optimised, with full use of the workers
  • Good access is provided to all work fronts
  • A typical erection rate achieved by VSL of one span every three days
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:
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VSL reference projects include

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Deep Bay Link - Hong Kong
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Deep Bay Link - Hong Kong
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Deep Bay Link - Hong Kong
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2. In situ construction applications

2.1. Incremental launching method

The principle of the incrementally launched method (ILM) for bridge construction consists of building the superstructure in segments in a casting yard located behind the bridge abutment, and then launching it forward over piers.

Best suited for:
  • Straight bridges or ones with regular curvatures in plan or in elevation
  • Bridges without sharp curvatures in plan between spans as these cannot be accommodated
  • Spans of virtually any length although post-tensioning has to be detailed to accommodate the different loading situations as each section of the deck moves from being on top of the pier to being mid-span
  • Places where ground access is limited, such as bridges over traffic, deep valleys or rivers
Advantages include:
  • A concentrated work front that optimises craneage requirements
  • Factory-type conditions can be established for segment fabrication, ensuring high quality and faster cycle times
  • Minimal effects from site constraints such as poor ground and restricted access
  • Minimal temporary works, with only a moderate investment required in specialist equipment such as the launching nose, launching jacks, conventional jacks, launching bearings and guides
  • A seven-day cycle can be achieved, if overtime is allowed
Schematic of the casting yard and launching bay:
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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

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Sunga Johor bridge - Malaysia
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Hodariyat Bridge, United Arab Emirates, 2011
MORE+

2.2. Form-traveller method

This highly flexible system allows efficient and repeated use of the equipment on bridges with different cross sections. A variety of casting lengths can be adopted to suit the engineer’s designs. The lightweight modular system requires minimal support craneage during assembly, erection and relocation. The form system incorporates unobstructed working platforms and access. Typical segment pouring cycles of five days are regularly achieved. If required, steam curing can also be incorporated into the form system to bring typical cycles down to four days per segment pour.

Best suited for:
  • Long spans, or large structures, where precast elements would not be easy to cast and transport
  • Straight or curved structures with a radius in plan of 180m or more
  • Projects with varying spans as different span lengths can be accommodated
  • Projects where longer cycle times can be accommodated as cycles are generally longer than with precast solutions. All the works, including rebar and concreting, are carried out on the critical path, which has an impact on the schedule, equipment and manpower resources
Advantages include:
  • VSL modular form travellers are readily available and can be obtained rapidly without any need for major re-engineering
  • Access constraints can be easily accommodated
  • Craneage capacity requirements are minimised
  • Crew efficiency is optimised between a pair of form travellers
Construction schematic:
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The typical construction cycle:

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VSL reference projects include

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C215 - Taiwan
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Gateway - Brisbane
MORE+

3. Heavy lifting applications for bridge construction

For economic or technical reasons, today’s bridge structures are frequently assembled from large, heavy, prefabricated elements.

VSL Heavy Lifting often provides the most effective solution, particularly for projects in which cranes or other conventional handling equipment cannot be used because of excessive weight, dimensions or space limitations.

Advantages include:

  • Economy and efficiency through custom-designed solutions
  • Suitable for any height and any load
  • A high level of safety as the load is always secured mechanically
  • Reliability based on 35 years of extensive experience
  • High degree of flexibility, with lifting units ranging from 10t to 600t capacity
  • Lifting levels and loads are managed to extremely tight tolerances through precision monitoring using a computer-aided control system
  • Very high capacity in relation to the equipment’s self weight

The method is best suited for projects where it is an advantage or a requirement to assemble part or all of the bridge at one location prior to moving or lifting it into its final position. It allows erections in situations where the assembly weight or dimensions are such that they cannot be handled by traditional cranes or lifting equipment. This is often the case for large full-span bridges that need to be assembled away from their final position because of traffic or other local constraints such as a river. The can then be transported or floated to below their final position ready to be lifted into place.

Construction services:

VSL plans lifting, horizontal jacking or lowering operations and designs the necessary temporary structures to suit the requirements of each project. Sound engineering, clear thinking, the ability to innovate, and years of successful experience provide a guarantee of reliable and cost-effective solutions.

VSL’s first priority is the safety of personnel and components. Specialised hydraulic lifting equipment is designed for the highest level of reliability, and all equipment is rigorously tested and serviced through VSL’s quality control and maintenance programme. VSL field services are also based upon a total commitment to safety.

The extensive experience of VSL personnel and the company’s exceptional track record in the field provide further assurance of reliable performance.

Flexibility using VSL equipment

VSL’s range of equipment provides the capability to lift or lower single loads well in excess of 10,000t. It includes a large choice of hydraulic jacks, pumps, control units, monitoring devices and modular lifting/jacking frames, giving VSL both the capacity and flexibility to perform virtually any project requiring lifting, lowering or horizontal jacking.

The VSL service package

VSL offers a complete range of services for the planning, engineering, equipment supply and execution of any heavy lifting project. VSL Heavy Lifting services can provided throughout the world and include:

  • Feasibility studies and preliminary consultation for lifting, horizontal jacking and lowering operations;
  • Project design and planning, equipment specification, scheduling and budgeting;
  • Design, manufacture and supply of any special equipment and temporary structures required;
  • Leasing and operation of VSL equipment;
  • The execution of works planned either by VSL or other parties.

The planning of a heavy lifting operation should be started as soon as possible. Early involvement of VSL specialists will result in a handling scheme that optimises the project for economy, efficiency and schedule.

VSL reference projects include
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Stonecutters Bridge
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Sheik Zayed bridge

4. Cable-stayed bridges

The VSL SSI 2000 Stay cable system is acknowledged as being one of the leading systems available anywhere in the world. The system is based on VSL’s proven strand and wedge anchorage technology and is designed to meet the most stringent criteria. It provides high fatigue resistance and excellent corrosion protection together with easy monitoring and maintenance. Installation or replacement is carried out using the strand-by-strand method, which has the benefit of requiring very little space and which uses relatively lightweight equipment.

In the basic configuration, the system incorporates greased and sheathed monostrands contained within a continuous external HDPE stay pipe, with no grouting of the cable. Additional enhancements can be offered including: coating (galvanising) of the monostrands for additional corrosion protection; colouring of the HDPE stay pipes to suit aesthetic considerations; and helical ribbing of the stay pipes to reduce the risk of wind-rain induced cable vibrations. The stays can also be fitted with VSL Friction dampers and VSL VE dampers , which are both among the most efficient and robust cable damping systems available.

In addition to the design, supply and installation of the stay cable system, VSL is able to offer clients a full range of specialist bridge construction services. These range from stage-by-stage construction analysis to the actual construction of the entire superstructure, including the design and supply of the necessary temporary works and construction equipment.

Advantages include:

  • High fatigue resistance
  • Full encapsulation of the strands inside the anchorage
  • Factory-applied corrosion-protection treatment for individual strands, giving a design life of up to 100 years even in the most aggressive environments
  • Compatibility with modern construction methods - compact anchorages that are fully prefabricated in a workshop, single strand installation using light equipment, easy force monitoring and adjustment
  • Faster installation and erection cycles
  • Reduced maintenance
  • Designed to be fitted with vibration damping systems should the need arise in the future
  • The ability to remove and to replace individual strands if required
  • In some cases, the SSI 2000 Saddle can replace the anchorage in the pylon, easing considerably its detailing and construction

Best suited for:

  • Straight bridges, although short bridges can be built with curves
  • Bridges with concrete or steel decks, ideally spanning between 100m and 1,000m, although shorter and longer spans can be built
  • Locations where bridge aesthetics are important as cable-stayed bridges appear light and are generally visually pleasing. The stay cable layout can be arranged to provide a dramatic visual effect.

Construction methods:

Cable-stayed bridges are generally built out from the pylon using the balanced cantilever method. Segments may be concrete - precast or in-situ - or steel, or a mix of both. (Method 1 below)

Other methods include cantilever construction close to the pylon, with the mid-span consisting of a drop-in section lifted from the cantilevers’ ends (Method 2 below). Alternatively, the deck might be built over falsework (generally used for the back spans where access is possible). The stay cables are then installed while the main span is being erected using the balanced cantilever method (Method 3 below). A combination of these methods could be used to obtain the best and most economical construction, depending on the individual structure being built and the local conditions.

VSL reference projects include

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Industrial Ring Road Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand, 2005
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Radès La Goulette Bridge, Tunisia, 2007
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Baluarte Bridge, Mexico, 2012
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