Works necessary to avoid disaster
Urgent remedial works have been taking place on the bridge at Ballyleague and Lanesboro over the past month – to avert a potential disaster.
While conducting an underwater inspection on the bridge last year, engineers noted that one of its supporting piers had eroded and required attention.
“We identified significant undermining of the pier adjacent to the navigation channel, on the Ballyleague side,” Aidan Farrell, the Leinster bridge manager for Transport Infrastructure Ireland, said.
“When we saw the level of undermining, we brought on board a consultant to design remedial works. They designed the scour remedial works.”
Initially, it was intended to carry out the works last December and January, but that work was postponed because of the flooding crisis. Eventually, the works commenced after the May Bank Holiday weekend.
They involves placing grout bags with a concrete mixture into the hole that has developed underneath the pier.
Mr. Farrell describes the works as a “pretty regular invention” that takes place on such structures countrywide in order to prevent any potential catastrophe.
In 2007, he points out, the century-old bridge at the Galway village of Leenane collapsed in a landslide and flashflood.
“There have been some very well-publicised and documented collapses of structures over the years,” Mr. Farrell said.
“About ten years ago, the bridge at Leenane collapsed. It would have been a similar process, but obviously more catastrophic.
“What happened there was the floodwaters undermined the masonry abutments and led to the collapse of the bridge.
“Granted, the bridge in Lanesboro wouldn’t be in the same category, but it was to prevent something similar happening like that.”
The works in question do not involve closing the bridge to road traffic, but do mean that there are restrictions on boats: from Monday to Friday, the navigation channel is closed to river traffic from early morning until 6 pm.
Because of that, the community had asked that the works be conducted after the tourism season, but this request could not be met.
“There was significant scouring there and it wasn’t something we could ignore,” Mr. Farrell said. “Winter is not the ideal time of year for doing such works, as we saw last winter.
“We would have run the risk of encountering adverse weather conditions that could have put us back again. We struck while the iron was hot.”