Communication With Roads Service
According to the riders, although the joints appeared to be fine in dry weather and an improvement to the “dips” prevalent in the previous joints, (which were only a few inches wide and created a slight jolt when ridden over), the new joints were nearly 2 feet wide and riders found that they caused a loss of grip, especially when the joints are negotiated in wet weather.
Right To Ride contacted Roads Service to pass on our own concerns and those of riders that had contacted us and who commented:
“As a few weeks ago, I was heading towards Bangor, and was stuck in traffic jam just before M3 starts to elevate …. As I crossed one of the joints, at about 10mp-15mph, the back wheel spun out .. it had been raining previously , so the joint was wet.”
“Overall I think they are terrible, even the car loses all steering feel briefly and sunshine at sunset reflects badly off them when wet.”
The joints appear to be fine in dry weather and an improvement to the “dips” prevalent in the previous joints, (which were only a few inches wide but created a slight jolt when ridden over), however the new joints are nearly 2 feet wide and riders have found that they cause their motorcycles to lose grip when these joints are negotiated in wet weather.
While motorcyclists should treat these covers like any other hazard such as wet gratings, painted road markings, mud, leaves, diesel etc. riders should not have to deal with a hazard that appears to have been designed into the road infrastructure without taking motorcycles into consideration.
Bridge Joints Back On Track
Roads Service has also informed us that their contractor has already begun to trial the application of the new surface treatment to the Asphaltic Plug Joint (APJ) in an attempt to ensure a uniform skid resistance over the entirety of each bridge joint.
Both Roads Service and the contractor are continuing to monitor the joints regularly and touch up the surface treatment as required.
This will ensure the treatment in place performs as intended.
Perhaps now we have got a grip we are heading to the full resolving of this potential deadly problem to improve the M3 joints for all road users.
We appreciate the patience and professional manner of the personnel to date from Roads Service, it has been a long haul.
Bridge Joints Let Down! – 24th October 2012
The Roads Service say that, ” It is hoped that this treatment will be long lasting, however, both ourselves and the DBFO Contractor will continue to monitor the adhesion of this newly applied product. I am hopeful that this solution will improve the skid resistance of the joint, especially in wet conditions.”
What would appear to be a solution offered and performed by Roads Service, (who have recognised the serious of the issue and made all attempts to solve this), or perhaps in hindsight we should have been more active in what the exact solution was going to be before it was done.
Perhaps we are being too rough on Roads Service although it appears that this is only a half job and there still needs to be a solution to the on-going problem.
M3 Bridge has Got A Grip – 5th April 2012
After various communications with Roads Service, the department put a process in motion which saw the DBFO Contractor (Design, Build, Finance and Operate Contracts), the designers and the joint manufacturer actively investigating methods on how to best improve the skid resistance over the joints, with an independent consultant monitoring the joints over a 12 month period.
We were told that the DBFO Contractor wishes to ensure it applies the best and most long-lasting treatment to the joints, which may not just be as simple as applying a non-slip covering.
Therefore a number of trials using alternative skid resistance applications has been undertaken, and is nearing conclusion.
Roads Service informed us that they, the DBFO Contractor and the manufacturer are keen to conclude this issue as soon as possible.
While this appears to have taken a long time to reach an end to slippery bridge joints, Roads Service have informed us that they, the DBFO Contractor and the manufacturer are keen to conclude this issue as soon as possible.
Mind The Joint – Taken Seriously – 27th June 2011
Roads Service (below), reiterates that they, the designers and the joint manufacturer are taking this issue very seriously and are actively pursuing this until its conclusion.
We first raised the issue in October 2010, because riders are riding over these joints, often on a daily basis and face the possibility of being “caught out”. While we appreciate the reply from Roads Service which gives details that discussions, testing and independent monitoring is being carried out, the simple fact is that riders know that these joints pose a hazard when riding over them.
One rider recently contacted us and stated, “As a few weeks ago, I was heading towards Bangor , and was stuck in traffic jam just before M3 starts to elevate …. As I crossed one of the joints , at about 10mp-15mph , the back wheel spun out .. it had been raining previously , so the joint was wet. And to be honest , every time it rains and I cross any of the joints on the bend , I get a nice wee front AND rear wobble.”
The issue is not about the speed when crossing the joints, there is a 50mph speed limit on this section of the M3 Lagan Bridge, it’s about grip and perhaps this type of joint has no requirement for in-service skid/slip resistance or Polished Skid Resistance Value in road safety standards.
Perhaps there are standards which take into account skid and slip resistance but do not take into account that a motorcycle as a “single track” vehicle, performs in a vastly different manner than a vehicle with four wheels or more.
There has been no interim measures from the Roads Service to publicly highlight the issue to motorcyclists who use the road .
By interim measures we would suggest that this could be signs that warn motorcycles about the joints.
We believe that these joints pose considerable danger to motorcyclists. The facts are that Roads Service have taken this position seriously, but it appears that Roads Service have to work within their procedures, even if that leaves riders exposed to the known practical danger posed by the bridge joints. In spite of “official” recognition that there is an issue, remedial work to – or replacement of – the joints is going to cost a shed load of money!
So our opinion is that Roads Service may be doing its best, but there are issues of risk and/or danger that are being weighed up against procedure and cost.
Perhaps those involved in the initial design, construction, the joint manufacturers and the operation and maintenance company whose responsibility it is to ensure the M3 Lagan Bridge (and the road it supports) is kept in good condition, in accordance with the required operation and maintenance standards, will admit that there is a safety issue and put right what is wrong.
Meanwhile the Department for Regional Development (DRD) – Roads Services has developed preliminary proposals to improve the junction at York Street – Belfast that would provide direct links between Westlink and the M2 and M3 motorways. This would include flyovers and we assume will include “bridge joints”.
There has been an initial public consultation, which ended on 30th June 2011 – read more on this – Click Here
Details of the communication from the Roads Service – includes: compliance with all relevant current standards – skid resistance complies with the standards – the joint has the minimum skid resistance requirement – evaluate compliance and if further testing is required. Investigate and if needed carry out tests on the joint to evidence its actual skid resistance (in both wet and dry conditions) – Roads Service, the DBFO Contractor (Design, Build, Finance and Operate Contracts), the designers and the joint manufacturer are taking this issue very seriously and are actively investigating the issue.
Response from Roads Service – 24th June 2011
There have been numerous discussions with the DBFO Company on this issue over the past 2 months. Testing has been undertaken and we have been in discussion with the DBFO Company regarding the results. Action currently lies with the DBFO Company to review the test results and liaise with the joint manufacturer to conclude if they plan to carry out any remedial works.
The independent consultant who is monitoring these joints is being kept informed of progress has been made aware of this issue throughout the testing period. The 12 month monitoring period ends in August 2011, hence I am hoping a conclusion to this issue will be resolved by then.
Please be assured that Roads Service, the DBFO Co, the designers and the joint manufacturer are taking this issue very seriously and are actively pursuing this issue until conclusion.
*The DBFO Company are Highway Management (City) Ltd who as part of their responsibilities are required to undertake work to ensure the M3 Lagan Bridge (and the road it supports) is kept in good condition, in accordance with the required operation and maintenance standards and that it is safe for public use.
Right To Ride Response – 21st October 2010
Thank you very much for your detailed response which I sincerely appreciate.
From your response you indicate that the responsibility of the contractor is to ensure that the quality of the joints are kept to a specified standard and I fully accept that there may be no further obligation for either Roads Service or the contractor.
However as I have tried to explain, the issue is not related to the quality of the standard of the bridge joints per se, rather whether they may or may not cause motorcyclists and indeed other road users to skid due to loss of traction.
I am sure you are aware of the IHIE Guidelines For Motorcycling which points out that the specific safety needs of motorcyclists need to be carefully considered by road designers and traffic engineers in the design, implementation and maintenance of any works on public roads.
I would point you to this section “Road Design & Traffic Engineering” covering the aspects of grip, which quite clearly, given my own experience and that of other riders, is a “major” issue with the design and fitment of the bridge joints.
“Any change in this grip, and in particular a sudden decrease, can lead to loss of control during the manoeuvre as the front wheel slides away.”
“A sudden lessening of the grip available, for example because of a surface change part-way through a bend, can cause the rear tyre to slip sideways and cause loss of control.”
Could you please indicate to me the EN or BSI standard for these bridge joints so that I may investigate further the matter. My reason for asking is simply because as in other cases (e.g CEN 1317) motorcyclists were not considered when the specifications were standardised.
I have been aware that work took place on the joint at the weekend and now the M2 bound joint has a noticeable ridge. This was observed by a car driver who commented about his concerns especially regarding motorcycles.
With regards to the IHIE guidelines, “The specific safety needs of motorcycles with their reliance on an adequate and consistent friction between their tyres and the road surface are frequently overlooked by policy makers, planners, road designers and maintenance engineers.”
It would appear at this stage and from your communication, that the strict process in place to ensure that any newly selected joint complies with rigorous standards needed for use on our roads, serving the needs and safety of all road users – may not have included motorcycles.
I and other riders have highlighted an issue with the bridge joints, specifically, the loss of grip. Hopefully the independent engineer who was required to monitor the installation and operational usage, can be made aware of this so that Roads Service can ensure that the DBFO Company will fulfil its responsibilities to address any problems as highlighted in my correspondence to you.
(On a slightly separate note, I notice on the bridge at each side of the joints there are two cones placed. My question: Are these cones intended to act as a warning for road users to notice the joints? If not why are they there?)
While I appreciate your explanation regarding the bridge joints, the fact is that there is an issue of safety which has been identified by numerous motorcyclists.
Myself and other motorcyclists have pointed out this hazard to the motorcycling community, we have offered advice on how best to ride over these joints, letters have been sent to MLA’s and subsequently to the Minister.
With the greatest respect, your reply does not provide any assurance that due consideration was given to motorcyclists when installing the bridge joints in question, nor that the most appropriate joint solution was used in this instance.
It is my view that there is a safety issue regarding the bridge joints that needs to be resolved before there is a major incident involving a motorcyclist.
Response from Roads Service – 21st October 2010
The independent consultant has been made aware of this issue and I have asked him to investigate as soon as possible with the joint manufacturer and the designer. The consultant is likely to now ask for evidence from the manufacturer to show compliance with all relevant current standards.
What I did not mention in the response was the series of discussions I have had with the DBFO Contractor (and its designers) and seeking confirmation as soon as possible that the skid resistance complies with the standards. As a result there was a meeting between the DBFO Co designers and the joint manufacturer on Tuesday 19 October. The manufacturer confirmed at the meeting that they have not had any issues like this previously with the rubber coated joints. One of the reasons for the rubber coating to the joints was to improve the skid resistance of the original detail which had an exposed steel plate. The manufacturer is now urgently investigating the provision of evidence to ensure that the joint has the minimum skid resistance requirement.
You have asked me to provide you with the relevant standards for skid resistance on such joints. The designer and manufacturer are investigating the whole series of relevant standards that may or may not apply in order to evaluate compliance and if further testing is required.
You suggest in your email that I have not given assurance that due consideration was given to motorcyclists. Any product, such as this, must comply with current methods and standards for installation. These standards are designed to cater for ALL road users. Also, I have given you an assurance of the following, ‘There is a strict process in place to ensure that any newly selected joint complies with rigorous standards needed for use on our roads serving the needs and safety of all road users. Roads Service have been involved in ensuring that this new joint replacement is compliant with the procedures needed to allow for its installation. It is imperative that any new joint complies with the strength and surface friction requirements for our roads.’.
As you can appreciate we have taken this forward with the relevant persons as soon as we received your query. They do now need time to investigate and if needed carry out tests on the joint to evidence its actual skid resistance (in both wet and dry conditions). Please be assured that Roads Service, the DBFO Co, the designers and the joint manufacturer are taking this issue very seriously and are actively investigating the issue.
Response from Roads Service – 20th October 2010
Expansion Joint Covers On M3 Bridge
Thank you for your query relating to the M3 Bridge in Belfast. I have reviewed your comments and questions and have prepared the following response;
For your information, this section of road is maintained by Highway Management (City) Ltd (the DBFO Company) through a Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO) Contract on behalf of Roads Service. As part of their responsibilities they are required to undertake work to ensure the M3 Lagan Bridge (and the road it supports) is kept in good condition, in accordance with the required operation and maintenance standards, and that it is safe for public use.
The DBFO Company replaced all the joints over the M3 Lagan Bridge during a 10 week period between June and September 2010. The replacement of the bridge joints was necessary because the existing joints had reached the end of their serviceable life and in some locations had failed resulting in the use of temporary repairs to ensure the safety of road users. It was also evident that the metal plates on the surface of the existing joints, now replaced, had become very ‘polished’ and therefore had the potential to present a hazard to some road users.
There is a strict process in place to ensure that any newly selected joint complies with rigorous standards needed for use on our roads serving the needs and safety of all road users. Roads Service have been involved in ensuring that this new joint replacement is compliant with the procedures needed to allow for its installation. It is imperative that any new joint complies with the strength and surface friction requirements for our roads. This particular joint consists of steel reinforced rubber sections (movement modules) to absorb the bridge movement and metal plates (bridging modules) to bridge the physical gap. The bridging modules you refer to as ‘plastic covers’ are in fact strong metal plates coated with a highly durable rubber material which is profiled to help shed water and provide suitable surface friction.
As part of the installation process of this particular joint system an independent engineer was required to monitor the installation (which has been undertaken), and to review the performance of the system over the following 12 months to ensure that there are no problems with the installation and operational usage (including safety of all road users). However, if any issues become apparent Roads Service will ensure that the DBFO Company will fulfil their responsibilities to address any problems.
It is my understanding that this type of bridge joint has been successfully used throughout Europe and the rest of the World providing a robust solution. It is anticipated that this new joint will remain operational for many years to come, enabling the network to be maintained in a safe, effective and reliable condition.
I hope that this provides you with some assurance that due consideration was given to all road users including motor cyclists and that the most appropriate joint solution was used in this instance.