Computational Mechanics and Design Group

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Ultimate and permissible limit state behaviour of soil-filled masonry arch bridges


Masonry arch bridges form a vital part of the UK railway and highway infrastructures. These bridges typically contain soil backfill, which contributes significantly to their overall load-carrying capacity. This project aims to improve understanding of soil-arch interaction in masonry arch bridges under both static and cyclic loading regimes. This joint project between the University of Sheffield and the University of Salford includes full- and medium-scale physical modelling as well as numerical modelling and development of  practical assessment guidance.

The laboratory testing is to be conducted using a new medium-scale test rig at the University of Sheffield and an existing full-scale rig at the University of Salford. The medium-scale testing rig at the University of Sheffield will collect data from Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV), LVDTs and soil pressure cells to monitor soil-arch interaction. A  quick test turn around will allow consideration of a larger number of parameters including near-surface strong layers.  Test results from Sheffield rig will therefore be useful in inform full-scale tests at the University of Salford.

As part of this project, numerical limit analysis methods capable of model both the masonry elements and non-associative soil behaviour are to be developed at the University of Sheffield. Using data collected during physical testing, the newly developed models will be validated.  Typically model validation is undertaken by manually varying a limited number of soil parameters and comparing results against a similarly limited subset of the test data. As part of this research, methods capable of automatically identifying ‘best  fit’ parameters and using the full range of test data will be developed.



Project dates

Start date: 
January 2013