Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and Halton Borough Council have successfully completed a £500,000 scheme to restore fifty tonnes of traditional cast iron work, which runs along the age-old footbridge, spanning the Runcorn Gap.
To mark this significant achievement, Sir William McAlpine, Chairman of the Railway Heritage Trust, and other local dignitaries visited the site recently to fully appreciate the specialist restoration work.
The reconditioned cast iron parapet (protective wall), which runs parallel to the Silver Jubilee bridge, now stands proud as part of the northern approach to the Runcorn Viaduct footbridge. Built between 1864 and 1869, the viaduct formed the first ever bridge over the Runcorn Gap carrying both goods and passengers. Constructed to the east side of the railway viaduct was a toll footpath which remained in use up until the 1960s when it was closed after the opening of the Silver Jubilee road bridge.
Edmund Nuttall Ltd was the main contractor involved in the refurbishment of the footbridge walls, while Smith & Co Ltd and Davision Tyne Metal Ltd of Hexham carried out the specialist casting work. The project took five months to complete with the Railway Heritage Trust contributing £50,000 and Halton Borough Council £2,000 to the overall cost.
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Restoration of the Grade II listed structure was carried out after cracks had been spotted along the parapet. The objective was to refurbish the parapet completely and the group worked hard repairing and renewing approximately 570 feet of the ornate cast iron work, which lies along the former footpath. Unfortunately, in places where there was severe damage, parts had to be made from scratch, moulding cast iron to form the replacement pieces. The portion over the river was not renewed although it is being considered as a future scheme.
Network Rail North West’s Regional Director, Tim Clarke said: “Maintaining the railway’s heritage throughout the network is extremely important, therefore I am delighted that Network Rail was able to contribute to the restoration of the Grade II listed structure. A considerable amount of work, money and effort has been put into the refurbishment scheme and it’s pleasing to know it was a success”.
Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Development, Planning & Transportation, Rob Polhill said: “The Mersey Rail Bridge and its viaducts are distinctive features of the Borough and much loved by the community. It is very pleasing that the quality of the restoration work is so high. I congratulate Network Rail for putting in the commitment and hope that the partnership between Halton Borough Council and Network Rail, which helped to make this project such a success, will bring about further restoration of the bridge and its viaducts.”