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Biomedicine

Blimey Bash

Britain has two cultural icons on a collision course: Twice a day, on average, high-profile vehicles such as double-decker buses smash into the country’s ubiquitous low-hanging railroad bridges. Each collision interrupts train service while engineers determine whether the bridge is still sturdy. It’s a time-consuming process that annoys passengers and costs Railtrack, the nation’s rail authority, the equivalent of about $8 million a year.

Enter the Bridge Bash Monitor. Developed by AEA Technology in Oxfordshire, England, the system uses a PC and video camera. Strain and vibration sensors are positioned on the bridge and connected to the PC; in an accident, the system alerts a control center, where experts check the damage. AEA installed the first monitors, which cost roughly $20,000 for each side of a bridge, this spring. It claims the system could also monitor river bridges that are vulnerable to wayward boats.

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