Plans to demolish the existing narrow-arch railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane and replace it with a much wider concrete structure during a nine-day railway closure over Easter have been postponed as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis.
Over the last few months, the new 4,500 tonne bridge has been gradually taking shape in the Alun Griffiths site compound within the adjacent Horizon 38 business park. It was due to be moved into position in the early hours of 15th April 2020 using a 176-axle self-propelled modular transport unit.
But Network Rail has now been forced to postpone the bridge replacement operation because of the difficulty in adhering to government guidelines on social distancing, in particular the need to maintain a separation of two metres between members of the 150-strong team working on the project.
Network Rail says it is now working with its stakeholders to try to identify an opportunity later in the year when the bridge move can take place, “subject to any future government guidance and directives”.
Gipsy Patch Lane was closed to all road users at the railway bridge for an estimated eight-month period starting on 5th March 2020. An announcement issued today (Friday 3rd April) by South Gloucestershire Council says Gipsy Patch Lane and the Station Road junction will remain closed “so Network Rail and Alun Griffiths can continue their preparatory and highways work”.
Work that was planned to be carried out in the six or so months after the new bridge had been installed over Easter includes lowering the carriageway under the bridge, regrading the Station Road junction, construction of new carriageway and pathways and installation of a new drainage pumping station.
The current project timetable shows further carriageway work, e.g. the construction of new bus lanes, being carried out east and west of the bridge until the end of 2021.
The cost of replacing the Gipsy Patch Lane railway bridge is £26.73 million. The work forms part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) scheme, which is funded to the tune of £56.9m by the West of England Combined Authority.
Above: New railway bridge under construction in the Alun Griffiths site compound.
South Gloucestershire Council Cabinet member for transport, Cllr Steve Reade, said:
“The new railway bridge is a significant engineering project which requires extensive works, including the demolition of the existing railway bridge and lowering the road to conform to national design standards for headroom under bridges.”
“The safety of workers has to be paramount at this difficult time and following current government instructions and advice from Public Health England unfortunately it is not possible to carry out the bridge move.”
“The CPME is an important part of our ambitions to keep South Gloucestershire moving now and in years to come. The council remains committed to this flagship scheme and we are working closely together to review the project and determine when this important phase can go ahead. However, the project team will be guided by any future government advice or directives concerning the coronavirus pandemic.”
“We would like to thank the local community for their continued patience and understanding at this time. We are obviously very disappointed that the work has had to be postponed.”
Full statement from South Gloucestershire Council (3rd April)
With the Coronavirus situation evolving at a rapid pace, Network Rail has been regularly reviewing its contingency plans to mitigate as much risk as possible. However, following further announcements by the government and guidance from Public Health England, the planned bridge move will be rescheduled.
This work has been deferred along with a number of other schemes across the wider rail network because of Coronavirus.
The installation of the new bridge is a significant piece of engineering work that requires approximately 150 skilled workers to be on site at one time, the majority of whom would be working in a constrained area. This would make the government guidelines concerning working on construction sites extremely difficult to comply with, particularly with regard to social distancing and maintaining two metres between workers. The safety of workers and preventing the spread of Coronavirus is of utmost importance at this time.
The bridge move was scheduled to take place between 11th April and 20th April. Network Rail is now working with its stakeholders to try to identify an opportunity later in the year when it can take place. However, the project team will be guided by any future government advice or directives. We will continue to keep the community updated.
The new bridge has been successfully constructed in the Horizon 38 compound and all four pile caps (foundations for the new bridge) have also been completed. This means these elements are ready for the bridge move when we are able to continue.
The council remains committed to this important transport project which will provide a direct route between Bristol Parkway railway station, Stoke Gifford, the Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood, The Mall shopping centre and will link with the wider MetroBus network.
At this time, Network Rail, and its contractors Alun Griffiths, will remain on site at Gipsy Patch Lane completing work that they are able to do whilst complying with government guidelines. This includes preparatory and highways work for when the bridge is moved into position.
We understand there is a great local interest in the CPME project but everyone should be practising social distancing to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. People must follow government instructions to stay at home, avoid gatherings of more than two people and stay at least two metres away from other people. Therefore, we ask that you do not visit the construction site, including the railway bridge area, on Gipsy Patch Lane for any reason.
Photo: View of the east side of the existing railway bridge during the road closure in March 2020.
Gipsy Patch Lane and Station Road junction
Gipsy Patch Lane and the Station Road junction will remain closed so Network Rail and Alun Griffiths can continue their preparatory and highways work.
Network Rail will continue to operate a shuttle bus for pedestrians needing to make essential journeys either side of the bridge. Further details on this service are available via the project website.
Train operating companies will be running reduced services until further notice in line with national advice against all non-essential travel.
Despite the postponement of the bridge move, the planned temporary closure of the railway between Bristol Parkway and Newport will still be going ahead from Saturday 11 April to Sunday 19 April inclusive. This is so that other planned engineering work on the railway that can be carried out within government guidelines, goes ahead. During this period, train services between Bristol and South Wales will be amended and buses will replace trains between Bristol Parkway and Newport.
If a journey is absolutely necessary, we strongly advise you to check before you travel by visiting www.GWR.com/Check or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Please note online journey planners may be amended at short notice.
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