Friday 8 Dec 2023
Celebration as Network Rail completes four-year £30m restoration of iconic Barmouth Viaduct
The completion of the £30m restoration of the iconic Barmouth Viaduct in north Wales was celebrated today (Friday 8 December) after a painstaking four-year programme of work to carefully restore the 156-year-old, grade II* listed structure, back to its former glory and protect it for generations to come.
Network Rail, representatives of the community, rail industry partners and the local council joined Wales Office minister Fay Jones for the unveiling of a plaque to mark the milestone.
The Cambrian line fully reopened to train services on Saturday 2 December after teams from Network Rail and Griffiths worked seven days a week during a 13-week closure to allow the final stages of the restoration to be safely completed.
Originally constructed by the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway in 1867, the Grade II* listed 770m structure is the longest viaduct in Wales and the longest wooden railway bridge in Britain.
When restoration began in 2020, Network Rail engineers found the 156-year-old bridge to be in a much worse condition than originally anticipated. Many of the timber elements had decayed significantly and a large portion of the metallic elements had corroded.
The programme was planned to make sure it wouldn’t threaten the structure’s industrial heritage, with components replaced on a ‘like for like’ basis to retain its majestic appearance. Realising the impact that a long-term closure of the line would have on the community, the work was purposely spread over several years with four shorter closures.
This autumn, after strengthening the north abutments and upgrading additional timber elements, the team focused on the metallic structure, successfully completing the intricate task of moving two 160-tonne spans. With one newly fabricated span weighing the same as a blue whale, teams used a total of 44 jacks – ranging from 20 to 100 tonnes capacity – as well as six rail trailers to carry out the technical move.
Once the restoration work was close to completion, work began to renew 297m of track near the toll house on the northern side and replace 1,100m3 of ballast (track stone) to ensure the safety of services crossing the viaduct over the Afon Mawddach.
The viaduct is now fully operational and members of the public can once again walk across it to enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
Network Rail’s route director for Wales and Borders Nick Millington said: “I’m delighted that we could be joined today by the Wales Office minister to celebrate the restoration of this iconic piece of Welsh railway heritage .
“It’s a fantastic achievement for the teams who have worked tirelessly in all weathers to complete the job, which will enable the viaduct to safely carry rail services for many years to come. We hope it will encourage more people to travel by train to see this beautiful part of Wales, supporting the local economy and our aim of decarbonisation.
“We’d like to thank our passengers and the local community for their patience and support while this essential work has been carried out.”
Wales Office minister Fay Jones said: “The Barmouth Viaduct is an iconic part of Wales’ railway heritage and I am delighted that the UK Government has made this £30m investment in its restoration.
“Together with the planned £1bn electrification of the North Wales Main Line, £50m for Cardiff cross rail and other investments from the South Wales Valleys to Aberystwyth, the UK Government is delivering improvements in rail infrastructure and improving journeys for passengers in every part of Wales.”
Transport for Wales Customer Experience Director Jo Foxall said: “We are delighted to be welcoming customers back to the Cambrian coast line and look forward to seeing people back on our trains in the build up to Christmas.
“The huge investment by our partners in Network Rail on Barmouth Viaduct will help secure the safe operation of the rail network for years to come.
“And with brand new trains set to enter service in around 18 months’ time, it really is an exciting time for the line.
“We would like to thank our customers and the communities affected for their patience while this vital work took place. The investment really is worth it for the long-term future of the line.”
Griffiths Rail Director Tim James said: “Griffiths is proud to have completed the reconstruction of the new bridge in a safe, sustainable and timely manner. We used innovative construction techniques to slide the new bridge into place and at the same time demolish the old structure. We worked tirelessly with our supply chain partners to design and build a new bridge that is fit for the future.”
Mayor of Barmouth Councillor Owain Pritchard said: “To many people, Barmouth Viaduct is an iconic landmark in a stunning setting. To the people of Barmouth and Meirionnydd it is also a vital link between communities, taking children to school, people to work, shop and the doctors. We are grateful to all the people who have worked on this huge project - a great early Christmas present for Barmouth.”
Notes to Editors
- 3-month closure
- 4 named storms
- 40,000 worked hours during blockade
- 0 accidents
- Over 70m of rock anchors
- Over 40t of cast insitu concrete
- Over 400t of new steel and 150t of temporary steelwork
- Over 1300m2 of suspended and supported scaffolding
- Over 650m2 grit blast and paint
- 130m of new track with a further 300m installed by SRSA
- 120m of new walkway with stainless steel handrail
Photo caption, left to right:
*Gwyn Rees, Performance and Transformation director at Network Rail Wales & Borders. Director of the Cambrian Local Railway
*Joyce Watson, Regional Senedd Member for Mid and West Wales
*Simon Roberts, Programme Manager Capital Delivery Wales and Western Region
*Fay Jones, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales
*Steve Richardson, Engineering Manager at Griffiths
*Colin Lea, Transport for Wales Rail Planning and Performance Director
*Owain Pritchard, Mayor of Barmouth
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We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.