Manuela Soares, Director for Transport, DG Research and Innovation at the European Commission presents Professor OBrien with his award in Paris.
Professor Eugene O'Brien of UCD has won the cross-modal award in the EU Champions of Research competition.
Over the course of several EU funded projects, Prof OBrien’s research has resulted in infrastructures that have been made more sustainable by extending their lives through the quantification of risks, especially the risk of bridges being overloaded. It has been made safer by developing methods to improve the consistency of safety throughout the bridge stock and less disruptive to travellers by extending the times between maintenance interventions. Extending the lives of infrastructures also makes transportation more competitive as it reduces cost. This research has developed road pavement and railway track deterioration models that can be used to predict the remaining service life of these infrastructures. These allow for more cost efficient maintenance planning, preventing overdesign while ensuring that pavements and track are sufficient to remain in service for their entire design life.
In Ireland, Prof OBrien’s work on Weigh-in-Motion has resulted in an increase in the allowable gross weight of 6-axle trucks from 44 to 46 tonnes. He demonstrated that the increase would have little effect on the risk of overload on bridges and, by encouraging a shift from 5 to 6 axles, would have the positive benefits of reducing the cost of transport, reducing the fuel consumption per tonne of freight and reducing cumulative damage to road pavements.
At European and the world level, his research on bridge traffic loading is identifying the nature of vehicles that govern the safety of bridges - these findings have made it possible to keep many bridges in these countries in service for much longer. The result is a bridge stock with a longer average bridge life, reducing the carbon footprint of bridges and reducing the demand for non-renewable materials.