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Gloucestershire Business News

Closing till Christmas: M5 sliproad

Crucial repair work to two motorway bridges in Gloucestershire has begun this week - and will last until the run-up to Christmas.

The potential delays will come as no surprise to regular users of the M5, but as much of Britain's motorway infrastructure motors past its half century, National Highways is now on the hunt for new technology that could step in early to bypass such disruption.

National Highways South West (NHSW) has warned M5 users in the county that repairs and resurfacing work will be ongoing until December 8th, the maintenance seeing disruption at the Brockworth interchange (J11A). With two bridges on the exit slip roads now more than half a century old, the structures will be refurbished and, the NHSW says, the work will include waterproofing, surfacing, expansion joints and concrete repairs.

Lane closures will be necessary for the teams working there, while the northbound exit sliproad at the junction will be fully closed until December. Allied resurfacing work, between J11 and J12 is set to be completed by October 10th, with all disruption timed to avoid the peak summer holiday travel season. Repair teams will be on site overnight, Monday to Friday.

To head off such work at J11A, National Highways launched in June its "Structures Moonshot", a research project to try and make bridge structures "self-monitor" so that potential defects can be spotted sooner.

Colin George, Deputy Head of Structures and Project Sponsor, said: "Robust maintenance and inspection regimes are in place for all of our structures, but if we could find new ways of detecting defects sooner it will revolutionise our bridge maintenance, safety and efficiency.

"The underlying ambition of 'Moonshot' is to maximise the benefits of recent and rapid advances in technology, tackling the increasing challenge of managing and maintaining the safety and use of our ageing bridge stock. The aim is to reduce the number of unplanned interventions on our roads network - which will mean a better experience for road users - and ultimately to see the automation of activities traditionally undertaken by personnel on site such as inspections and monitoring."

The project is being taken forward by the Atkins-Jacobs Joint Venture (AJJV), which will carry out extensive testing and research to identify the most suitable technologies for conducting advanced forms of Non-Destructive Testing on structures.

New ideas are being sought which may include experimenting with machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect critical hidden structural defects, while solutions could range from advanced sensors, imaging technologies and machine learning algorithms.

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