New tech to keep bridges strong

The Victorian Government is partnering with a global technology company to remotely monitor bridges to keep traffic and trains moving.

In Preston, four level crossings will be removed and 2km of rail line will be raised over four roads on the Mernda line, delivering new open space underneath the two-kilometre rail bridge, providing smoother and safer journeys for the 82,000 vehicles that pass through these level crossings each day.

The government will establish a joint venture with leading US company Xerox to develop a new technology that will remotely monitor bridges, such as the future bridge at Preston to better manage their maintenance.

The technology is the result of trials carried out through a partnership between VicTrack and Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), which developed sensors that can be used to monitor structural health in bridges. Following the successful trials, the Government will invest $50 million to roll out the new technology on priority bridges across Victoria, through a new commercial company called Eloque.

Eloque will rapidly expand to help customers around the world, using their technology that uses tiny fibre optic connected sensors attached to the bridge to accurately measure and estimate structural strain, thermal response, bending, loads, vibration, and corrosion, which are all measures of structural health.

The technology analyses data collected from the sensors using advanced analytics to deliver information directly to the bridge owners and operators remotely via an interactive dashboard. Data can be seen in real time so the bridge manager can monitor whether a bridge has structural problems, has been damaged or needs repair.

It enables any problems to be detected that are not visible to the naked eye or may not show up in manual inspections. This means issues can be found early before they potentially go on to cause delays for motorists or passengers or be quite costly.  

It also allows maintenance budgets to be better prioritised and targeted to the bridges that need it the most, making maintenance more efficient and less time consuming.

While the technology is currently being used on bridges, it has the potential to be used on any structure that needs maintenance – including roads, multi-storey car parks, tunnels and ports.  The technology will be progressively rolled out on priority bridges, particularly those that regularly deal with heavy loads and are at the most risk of deterioration.

For more information, please visit the Eloque website.