‘Significant defects’ found in M32 Eastville flyover

EASTVILLE’S M32 flyover needs repairs costing nearly £23 million after cracks and corrosion were found.

National Highways, which is responsible for the concrete bridge that carries motorway traffic over the Muller Road roundabout, says “significant defects” have been found by inspectors.

The government agency stresses that the flyover is “structurally sound and safe”, but it is planning a major programme of repairs.

The Eastville Viaduct was built in two phases in 1970 and 1975, and is used by tens of thousands of drivers every day over Junction 2 of the M32.

It is 1.1km (around two thirds of a mile) long.

Recent safety inspections, details of which have been released under freedom of information laws, reveal that some of the concrete is cracking and bearings are corroding.

Underneath the bridge, several large areas of ‘spalling’ – where concrete has broken away, exposing steel reinforcements to the elements and leaving them vulnerable to corrosion – can be seen (pictured above).

Historic problems with construction and maintenance have also compounded issues.

The works programme will include repairing concrete and installing new barriers, waterproofing and drainage, and are likely to cause months of disruption — although they are not expected to begin for several years.

Inspectors working for National Highways, the government company responsible for motorways and major A roads, carried out a general inspection in June this year.

Their 521-page report listed many defects of the Eastville Viaduct, including “poorly instaled” bearings, corrosion and failures to rectify problems during maintenance.

The report said: “Evidence of sawdust and off-cuts of reinforcement nails and screws clearly demonstrates a lack of any quality control when preparing the formwork for concrete pours.

“Corrosion is present to the bearing top plate and bearing bolts.

“The mounting brackets are corroded and must be replaced. This defect is clearly causing damage to the element or structure.

“It is known that where gullies have been found to be broken or blocked the maintenance teams were instructed to fill them, as this was deemed to be quicker and more cost-effective than repairing the gully lids.

“Some bearings have incorrectly fitted securing or holding-down bolts, which may be interfering with their operation.”

The inspectors said blocked and corroded drainage systems (above) led to water with high levels of salt leaking throughout the structure and onto the pavement below. .

About £22.6 million worth of repairs are needed to the bridge, according to the report.

These include spending £10 million on repairing the concrete deck; £16,500 on removing blockages from the drainage system; £10 million on waterproofing; and £2 million on replacing or refurbishing corroded bearings. However, the works are not anticipated to start until the year 2026.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Sean Walsh, route manager for National Highways, said: “The M32 Eastville viaduct will need significant renewal in the coming years, and we have begun making plans for these works now. These works will ensure the long-term viability of the viaduct, the safety of its users, and also improve the area for local residents.

“This will include concrete repairs to the bridge itself, new barriers that will also incorporate noise mitigation, new gantries, drainage, lighting, and new waterproofing, as well as a new contiguous deck to allow traffic to be moved around during construction.

“While the viaduct remains structurally sound, we have been working in conjunction with consultants to develop the plans, with traffic modelling under way to ensure the works cause the minimum disruption possible.

“We understand this work will cause some inconvenience and disruption, but we are making every effort to ensure the impact on those who use the road is kept to a minimum and hope to keep it open in some capacity throughout the works. We will also work with the West of England Combined Authority, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council to ensure there are appropriate mitigations in place, where possible.”

Residents living near the Eastville Viaduct have been calling for new noise barriers for several years, and National Highways announced eight years ago that the M32 from the viaduct to the M4 was a “priority area for noise reduction”.

But this work has been delayed due to the need for extensive repairs, leaving residents suffering from constant traffic noise.

By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service