Valley Bridge negligence – the plot thickens
Following on from my three part series, North Yorkshire County Council appears to have decided that it would be a good idea to put out a Public Relations (PR) story, to assure the public that Valley Bridge is “safe”.
After reading the article in the Scarborough News, I was utterly appalled to see the blatant mis-information being peddled as fact.
What made me most upset was the fact that the people being quoted in the article are employees of the public purse. People WE employ to do an honest days work, busy spreading misinformation.
Take for example the County Council “spokeswoman”. She is never identified, but she is clearly quoted as saying that any non-structural components have been removed that might have been in danger of falling off. There aren’t any words to get confused there:
- “all non-structural components have been removed”.
In short, if it isn’t desperately needed to hold the bridge up, it has been removed. But that isn’t exactly true.
About two days after Christmas, I was walking along Valley Road and as I was passing under the structure, thought I noticed something substantial fall off the bridge. Things have certainly been thrown off the bridge in the past by pedestrians, so I ignored it and continuted to my destination. It grabbed my curiosity though, and I decided a few days later to investigate, and found quite a number of bits that had fallen off the structure. This led me to check the upper portions of the bridge for damage, and was the motivatoin for releasing my first video on YouTube:
Whilst I am not an engineer, I can say with some certainty, that it is definitely NOT safe to have people able to walk or drive under a structure where pieces can fall off and hit them.
Just one of the pieces I have collected weighs in at over one kilogram – that’s 2.2lbs for those of us that still use traditional measurements.
After contacting North Yorkshire County Council, to alert them to the possibility of people being injured or killed, it was dissapointing to know that nothing was being done to prevent any kind of accident.
In fact, no one seemed bothered. Take Cllr Gareth Dadd for example. He was really annoyed at having his evening meal disturbed.
Would he have have been equally annoyed if a child had been killed by one of these falling fragments? We will never know.
I decided to do a little checking into iron structures and found a lot of information; information that NYCC engineers should have been well aware of; information that should be instrumental in ensuring that Valley Bridge has been maintained and not present a clear and present danger to the safety of the public.
The first thing is that an iron structure is susceptible to corrosion. Any one who’s been to school and taken science knows about iron oxide (rust) and a little bit about the processes surrounding it. This article isn’t going to get into major technical discussions, but suffice it to say that rusting of iron takes place because of an electrochemical reaction.
There are litterally dozens of articles available freely on the internet that describe in detail the process of rusting, and how to prevent it from occuring.
From this article we see that:
- “Painting and Coating SystemsThe most common and effective way to preserve architectural cast iron is to maintain a protective coating of paint on the metal. Paint can also be decorative, where historically appropriate. “
So, in order to maintain a structure we maintain the paint. Meaning that at least a few times over a twenty year period, someone should have been along with a tin or two of paint and re-painted Valley Bridge. After all, it is historically important, it does form a major arterial road and footway into the town from the South, and it is quite a landmark.
It is without doubt that a good many of you will be aware of the phrase “painting the Forth Bridge”, in reference to a never ending task. Whlist the Forth Bridge was never continuously painted, it is inspected year on year in order that any maintenance issues can be addressed BEFORE they become a problem.
It also means that the life of the structure is increased, and safety does not become an issue for those travelling across the Firth of Forth. Details can be found here.
There are just two of the sources of information showing that maintenance of any kind of structural iron is very, very important.
Next we should take a look at the so-called “suicide barriers” on the bridge.
Whilst it is not for this article to discuss the benefits, or otherwise, of these barriers, it is pertinent to look at the materials used in their contstuction, and how this might affect the bridge itself.
Upon inspection, the barriers appear to be made of a galvanised steel. From this article, we learn that galvanized steel is:
“Galvanized steel is steel that has gone through a chemical process to keep it from corroding. The steel gets coated in layers of zinc oxide because this protective metal does not get rusty as easily. The coating also gives the steel a more durable, hard to scratch finish that many people find attractive. For countless outdoor, marine, or industrial applications, galvanized steel is an essential fabrication component.”
Iron and steel, whilst both containing iron, are two very different metals. They interact with one another, and an electrochemical reaction can occur that means one will oxidise, or rust. Again, anyone who’s been to school and done any work in chemistry or physics will know about this reaction.
It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to understand how rusting, or oxidisation, occurs. It might also be likened to the idea of your parents telling you that if you leave your bike out in the rain it will rust. The reason is that the bike is often made of different metals, and when wet they interact with one another and oxidisation occurs.
These processes are described in detail here:
So, how do we protect a massive structure like this, where two different metals are used? Well, the cheapest, safest, and easiest method to use is cathodic protection.
The basic principle of this is that you take into account the metals you are working with and attach something called a “sacrificial anode” to the metals you want to protect. This has happened for decades on metal ships. Usually a bar of zinc is attached to the underside of the ships hull, and rust is lessened to a massive extent. These anodes are inspected, and if necessary replaced, regularly. Details of this process can be found here: (). There are also some good pictures showing this in action.
So, where are the sacrificial anodes on Valley Bridge?
Well, after a huge search, none can be found. There aren’t any locations where there might have been any – but bear in mind, it isn’t possible to climb up into the structure. So, a Freedom of Information Request has been made to NYCC to ask for the invoices for the sacrificial anodes, and the dates they were installed.
More damning than any of this though is the fact that, two days ago, a member of the public sent in the following photo of this 2lb (900g) jagged chunk of metal that had fallen off the bridge and was retrieved by him during the course of his inspection.
Imagine that on your car-roof – or through the top of your head!
Just some of the fragments I have collected weigh as much as this, and in some cases more. North Yorkshire County Council have repeatedly said that they have “picked up all the bits” (Yorkshire Coast Radio Press release), and that “nothing is going to fall from the bridge” (multiple press releases).
The question we are left with;
- who’s telling the truth?
- why can’t we be told who has failed to do their job, and
- why haven’t they done their job for the last twenty years?
Still , we have a bridge that presents a danger to the public, and in my opinion, I would strongly suggest not travelling underneath Valley Brige until it has been fully maintained and there is no danger whatsover of anything falling off.
Finally, it should be noted that a good number of people within NYCC appear to have have failed to respond in a fashion that shows any sense of caring for our safety. Chunks of metal have fallen from the bridge, we’ve been told they aren’t falling.
Perhaps black is white.
Perhaps we should be looking at just how qualified these people are to run our affairs.
All that remains is to leave you with Part Four of the video Following on from my three part series, North Yorkshire County Council appears to have decided that it would be a good idea to put out a Public Relations (PR) story, to assure the public that Valley Bridge is “safe”.