Cover of Swansea and Hexham Opening Bridges: The maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrade challenge
Swansea and Hexham Opening Bridges: The maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrade challenge
  • Publication no: ABC-MAR019-11
  • Published: 31 October 2011

The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) Hunter Region boasts three operational opening bridges; the twin Swansea Bridges on the Pacific Highway 25km south of Newcastle, and the southbound Hexham Bridge, also on the Pacific Highway 15 km north of Newcastle. Each bridge has an annual average daily traffic (AADT) count of around 30,000 vehicles with the Swansea Bridge opening about 2,000 times per year and Hexham Bridge opening about 90 times per year.

Since 2003/2004, the RTA has performed numerous major upgrades and improvements to these high profile structures. These works have culminated in creating a period in their history of unprecedented operational reliability, whilst performance benchmarking has demonstrated reduced incidents and delays to marine and vehicular traffic.

The works were undertaken to a detailed strategy and delivered to modern standards thereby ensuring the ongoing functionality of the Bridges into the 21st Century. This approach has required the introduction of new technologies including Impressed Current Cathodic Protection (ICCP) and novel technologies like the installation of a Nitrogen Gas Purging System. In addition, commonly used current technologies have been modified to meet the complexities of today’s busy opening bridges, like the introduction and upgrade of the Programmable Logic Control (PLC) and complex bridge operating systems.

In the last eight years the RTA’s Hunter Opening Bridge Management Team has performed major maintenance upgrades and improvements to both the opening and fixed spans of their Movable Bridges. There is now in place a well documented and structured routine and preventative maintenance programme to ensure their ongoing effective and reliable usage. The Team had to have the drive, strategy and vision to ensure successful end outcomes.