Work underway on South Esk viaduct refurbishment: South Esk viaduct

Monday 18 Sep 2017

Work underway on South Esk viaduct refurbishment


Work is now underway on a £4.2 million refurbishment of the South Esk viaduct at Montrose as part of Network Rail’s UK wide Railway Upgrade Plan.

The 16 span (section), 440 metre, grade B listed structure stands on 15 pairs of wrought iron piers above the River Esk at the mouth of the Montrose Basin.

In the coming months, it will be grit blasted, cleaned, repaired and repainted section by section in a project which will last 16 months and complete in the summer of 2018.

South Esk viaduct was completed in 1883 and was one of last major bridges built in wrought iron using lattice girders – a Victorian design standard – in the UK. It was built by railway engineer William Arrol who was responsible for the construction of many iconic bridges including the Tay and Forth Bridges.

A bespoke scaffold system and walkway is in place to enable the Network Rail project team and specialist contractor Taziker Industrial to access the structure and deliver the work safely.

The viaduct is also being ‘encapsulated’ to provide the right working environment in the exposed location as well as to stop any contaminants from leaking into the air and river below – particularly during grit blasting and painting.

Jeremy Spence, Network Rail’s project manager, said: “Now that we have scaffolding, walkways, and bridge protection in place, work can get underway on the structure itself.

“It’s a stunning location and I am sure the experience of working here over the coming months will be both exciting and challenging. Getting the chance to see the viaduct up close gives you great respect for those who built this structure more than a century ago and we hope that our work does justice to the legacy that we have been left by the Victorian railway pioneers.

“We take seriously our responsibility to maintain and preserve these historic structures, not just for the safe and efficient operation of the railway, but also how they look in their setting for those travelling on the railway or visitors to the area enjoying the beautiful views.”

The steelwork on the bridge is being painted ‘Window Grey’ to match the original colour of the listed structure using a three coat system which protects the existing and new metal work from corrosion and provides a high quality aesthetic finish. The refurbishment of the viaduct ensures that it will not need any significant maintenance for around 25 years.

As well as the logistical challenges of working at height above a river, the Network Rail team and contractor also have to work within the harsh realities of winter in an exposed coastal location. In practical terms this means that the viaduct can only be encapsulated a section at a time to limit the effects of wind loading on the structure.

The scaffolding will be removed and the site compound cleared by the end of summer 2018.

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Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain's railway - the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.65bn journeys by rail every year and move hundreds of millions of tonnes of freight, saving almost 8m lorry journeys. We employ 38,000 people across Britain and work round-the-clock, each and every day, to provide a safe, reliable railway.

About the Railway Upgrade Plan

The Railway Upgrade Plan is Network Rail's investment plan for Britain's railways. It makes up two-thirds of Network Rail's £40bn spending priorities for the five years to 2019 and represents the biggest sustained programme of rail modernisation since the Victoria era. It is designed to provide more capacity, relieve crowding and respond to the tremendous growth Britain's railways continue to experience; passenger numbers have doubled in the past 20 years and are set to double again over the next 25 years - so we need to continue to invest in building a bigger, better railway. For passengers, that means:

  • longer, faster more frequent trains;
  • better, more reliable infrastructure; and
  • better facilities for passengers, especially at stations.

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