Tuesday 7 May 2019
Network Rail successfully completes bridge replacement using one of the largest cranes in the country
The railway line between Newbury in Berkshire and Westbury in Wiltshire reopened early this morning, Tuesday 7 May, after Network Rail successfully replaced a 120-year-old bridge which carries the line over the River Kennet.
The bridge needed to be replaced because of its age and the new structure will mean fewer speed restrictions will need to be put in place and fewer delays will be caused.
Engineers worked around the clock over the bank holiday weekend to remove the old structure, before using one of the largest mobile cranes in the UK to lift the new bridge into place. New railway tracks were then installed on top of the structure to take trains over the river.
The project was slightly unusual, as the main parts of the bridge deck were built on site. Owing to the proximity of the River Kennet, a specially made pontoon was also built, creating more space to safely manoeuvre parts of the structure into place.
The bridge was erected with the help of a giant crane, which has enough power to lift over 160 elephants into the air at once. This heavy-duty crane was put together at the site with the help of a smaller crane, a sixth of the size of the larger crane.
Once the giant crane had been put together, four large sections were lifted into place to make up the main stretch of the bridge, which is 40 metres in length. Each of the four parts weighed 105 tonnes and is made from 50 tonnes of concrete reinforced with steel sections.
Network Rail’s project manager for the scheme Jon Turton said: “This work was vital to ensure that the bridge will be fit for purpose for decades to come and allows trains to remain at a consistent speed without the need to slow down which would lead to an increase in journey times.
“We know that the railway is 50% quieter during bank holidays and planned for this project to take place during the early May bank holiday so that it could be completed with minimal disruption to passengers.
“We would like to thank passengers and the local community for their patience during this essential work.”
GWR director of operations Rob Mullen said: “This essential bridge replacement work will allow us to continue to operate services through the area, ensuring we can make the most of our new Intercity Express Trains and in the near future deliver more frequent and quicker journeys.”
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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.
Every day, there are more than 4.8 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.