Network Rail, formerly Railtrack, has confirmed that the Royal Albert Bridge – Brunel’s historic rail link between Devon and Cornwall, which spans the River Tamar – will be closed again to allow for the completion of essential engineering work.
It was first announced in July this year that the work would take place on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when no train services are running, and for two further periods in January 2003.
Over the Christmas period, the bridge will be closed from approximately 23.30 on Christmas Eve (Tuesday, 24 December) until 05.35 on Friday, 27 December. This will not affect any train services. The following closure periods will start from 04.40 on Saturday 11 January 2003 until 05.35 on Monday 13 January, and from 04.40 on Saturday 18 January until 05.35 on Monday 20 January. In both cases, 04.40 has been selected to allow the Royal Mail trains through.
This work, costing £1.8 million, is the second and last phase of the current bridge restoration project. Phase one, which concentrated on the Devon side of the bridge, cost £1.2 million.
Royal Albert Bridge – 2
The track is being removed and the ballast and planks beneath, which were introduced in the 1920s, are being replaced with long timbers, restoring the bridge to Brunel’s original design. The track will then be re-laid on the new timbers.
Tropical ekki wood, an extremely hard material and dense enough not to absorb water, will be used for this track support. It should have a minimum lifespan of 25 years.
“We are carrying out this work because the current system of planks and ballast causes a higher level of metal fatigue,” said Anna Cornish, Network Rail Project Manager. “While at the moment the safety issues are minimal, this work is vital if the bridge is to last another 140 years. The other benefit is that the bridge will then be restored to Brunel’s original design and we’re delighted to be using the same team of engineers who worked so successfully on phase one.
“We also hope that by choosing the Christmas break for the first of these three periods of work we can keep our disruption of the rail services to a minimum. But, obviously, Network Rail would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused while this essential engineering work is carried out.”
During the January bridge closures, buses will replace the train service between Plymouth and Liskeard stations.
Also over those two weekends in January (11/12 and 18/19) the line will be closed between Taunton and Exeter (Cowley Bridge). Trains services will be diverted via Honiton and local travellers will be provided with a bus service between Taunton and Exeter.