Stresses come under scrutiny

RMC presents the results of its research into why manhole covers fail

Potential for poor installation must be reduced

Potential for poor installation must be reduced

As the incidence of manhole failure increases, the real price of these failures is becoming apparent. The costs of labour, materials and the disruption caused can be considerable and, invariably, the same sites fail repeatedly.

As part of the research programme the process of failure was put under the microscope. More than 2,000 manhole failures were studied with the aim of uncovering the mechanisms at work. RMC came to believe the reasons for failure had not been properly understood and therefore the solutions offered to-date were unable to cure the problem.

The causes of failure were many and varied, and rarely attributable to just one identifiable cause. The overriding conclusion was that no single aspect of the structure can be blamed and that when considering a solution, the complete system and the way it integrates and interacts with the surrounding road must be taken into account.

In every case the mortar failed, with the brickwork and the road surround failing in the vast majority of instances. Such traditional materials as bricks, cementitious mortars, tiles, slates, etc were simply not designed to do the job that a modern manhole structure must perform.

The factors that contribute to the failure have been identified as:

  • increased traffic volumes and vehicle weights,
  • the vertical and lateral stresses imposed are increased dramatically in vulnerable locations - bends, roundabouts, traffic lights, junctions, etc,
  • traditional materials are inflexible and unable to cope with these stresses,
  • braking and turning forces create lateral stress and movement of the ironwork exacerbating the inability of inflexible materials to respond,
  • ironwork with a narrow or skeleton type bedding flange tends to fail earlier than ironwork with a wide, solid flange,
  • poor practices in reinstatement work,

Repeat failure is a major problem. Inadequate repairs, particularly on high stress sites done at speed, often result in a second and subsequent failures in a very short time.

RMC felt the cost of manhole failure had never really been considered and as a result the true extent of the problem had not been calculated.

Applying these results to the Readyraise development programme has enabled the creation of a system that is able to provide an effective and durable response. Initially the Readyraise concept involved a system that could be raised and lowered to facilitate planing and resurfacing during road maintenance. As the more detailed consideration of manhole failure and structural requirements began to yield tangible results, it became clear that this facility, although an important feature, was secondary to producing a system that could withstand the stresses that were becoming ever more apparent.

As a result, a profile of a system to meet these needs was developed:

  • impact-resistant and flexible bedding - this material must have high tensile strength be able to absorb the impact and vibrations from traffic without cracking or crumbling, it must also allow for the natural flexing of the ironwork flange. As a consequence rigid bedding materials with high compressive strength are considered unsuitable as they simply transmit the vibration and impact stresses to the structure below causing further failure,
  • containment of lateral stress - the support structure must contain the ironwork laterally and absorb the stresses from braking and turning forces, thus reducing the stress on the carriageway surface,
  • rapid installation - the system must be able to be installed rapidly. Fast-setting of the bedding and reinstatement materials is essential to reduce disruption and to allow the road to be reopened as soon as possible,
  • ease of installation - the whole system must be capable of being installed simply and without the potential for incorrect materials or practices being employed,
  • permanent and adjustable - the support structure should have a design life the same or greater than the road structure and allow for future, level adjustment,
  • ironwork specification - the ironwork should not only comply with BS EN 124 but should also have a wide, solid flange, be 150mm deep wherever possible and be of a category suitable for the traffic intensity of the road.

As a result RMC produced Readyraise. Precast concrete components work in conjunction with flexible and impact-resistant bedding material to provide a containment structure that is durable and able to withstand the stresses imposed. The system is simple to install, can be adjusted and has a design life of 50 years.

Thousands of Readyraise units have been installed in a wide variety of locations. The system has been rigorously assessed, has WRc approval and has recently gained British Board of Agrément (BBA)/Highway Authorities Product Approval Scheme (HAPAS) approval.

RMC believes Readyraise works because its development has been based upon the detailed consideration and assessment of the nature of the problem and a systematic approach to providing an effective, durable and properly engineered solution.


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