Innovative railway footbridge design is unveiled: bridge 1-18

Wednesday 16 Jun 2021

Innovative railway footbridge design is unveiled

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A new design of bridge that could transform rail crossings and improve public safety will be unveiled by Network Rail at Rail Live today (June 16). 

The innovative curved bridge, named FLOW,  is set to revolutionise the way Network Rail builds footbridges over the tracks. Made from lightweight material in an open and flowing design, the bridge can be installed in a matter of days, and its modern, modular design means it can be adapted to different locations. It also features built-in monitoring to assess usage and maintenance needs.

Andy Cross, Network Rail Programme Manager, said “We took a different approach with this project. We worked with several small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom haven’t worked on railway projects before but have the skills and expertise to bring the concept of a lightweight, low-cost footbridge to life.

“In just 11 months we have developed a prototype bridge that is stunning in design and will take days and not weeks to install and thereby causing less disruption for the surrounding community.  

"The FLOW bridge will enhance the railway environment and help improve public safety as an alternative to footpath crossings."

Network Rail currently has just one option when considering building a new footbridge or replacing an old one, the standard non-station footbridge design that is heavy, unattractive and expensive to deliver.

This new design is made from Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) – a lightweight material that is widely used in other industries, including the manufacture of aircraft and cars. The material is very strong but lightweight, leading to lower transport and installation costs. 

It is hoped the ground-breaking design will be adopted across the country as part of a wider programmer of work to transform how footbridges are designed, developed and built on the rail network in future, as well as providing an attractive alternative to repairing existing crossings. The next phase of the project involves developing sustainable procurement and construction options as well as a ramped, step-free  version of the bridge.

The prototype has been trial built at a test centre in Long Marston, Warwickshire, and will go on show there at the 2021 RAIL Live event on June 16-17.

Notes to editors:

Network Rail’s Research and Development (R & D) portfolio expects to invest over £350m in research, development & innovation through its five-year control period to March 2024 to drive improvements in efficiency and safety in the rail industry through new technology.

Network Rail Design Delivery are Network Rail's internal design organisation and they were the focal point for all the design development and standard specifications, facilitating internal requirements while gaining technical awareness of the composites industry. 

The following organisations were all part of the project team that worked with Network Rail to help:

  • Knight Architects - specialist bridge architects who were able to come up with an exciting new concept that the team could turn into reality.
  • Jacobs - who provided design expertise and independent checking of the Network Rail design.
  • KS Composite – a UK-based manufacturer whose usual clients include F1 teams and prestige car manufacturers. They manufactured the bridge spine.
  • Sui Generis – another UK based manufacturer who specialise in moulded components, including tractor bodywork. They made the deck units that clamp to the spine.
  • Epsilon Optics – UK specialists in fibre-optic monitoring, who designed, manufactured and installed the monitoring system.
  • Q-Railings – a UK-based glazing company, who usually install structural glazing and parapets to buildings. 
  • JT Consulting – who designed, manufactured and installed the Rapid Root foundation system.
  • FoFlo-  who have provided virtual working platforms and new approaches to team working and monitoring the risks and opportunities of the project.

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Tracey O'Brien
Media relations manager
Network Rail

About Network Rail

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.

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