Rail bridge installation delayed until autumn

Photo of the east side of the existing railway bridge during the road closure in March 2020.
View of the east side of the existing railway bridge during the road closure in March 2020.

A new date has been confirmed for the installation of the replacement railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane following the postponement of the work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The new 4,500-ton concrete bridge, which has been constructed in a compound within the adjacent Horizon 38 business park, was due to be moved into place during a nine-day closure of the railway over Easter 2020. However, the operation was called off 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.

Since the postponement was announced in early April, Network Rail says it has continued to work hard behind the scenes with its stakeholders, contractor and supply chain to identify a new date when the Gipsy Patch Lane railway bridge can be manoeuvred into position.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has now revealed that the bridge move will now take place between 24th October and 7th November 2020.

This longer 13-day period takes into consideration the extra time needed to carry out work whilst observing the current government guidelines on coronavirus and social distancing. Network Rail is also hoping to be able to complete some of the tasks on the railway that previously would have been carried out in separate follow up shifts.

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Beautilicious Beauty Room & Piercing Studio, Stoke Gifford, Bristol.

A council spokesperson explained that rescheduling the railway closure has been a complex process that needed to take into account a range of factors, including:

  • The latest government guidance on coronavirus
  • The availability of a wide range of critical equipment, machinery and people, including the self-propelled modular transporter (SPMT) units that will pick up and move the new bridge
  • Securing local accommodation for the 150 specialist railway engineering staff that will be working on the bridge replacement
  • Co-ordination with other railway projects requiring line closures elsewhere on the national rail network
  • Consultation with train operating companies and freight operating companies because a closure impacts on train services, passengers and freight movements

The delay to the bridge move will also have a knock on effect on the length of time that Gipsy Patch Lane is closed to motor vehicles. The road has been fully closed since 5th March 2020 and whereas it was originally anticipated that it would reopen by November 2020, i.e. after eight months, this date has now been extended to July 2021 (see below).

SGC’s Cabinet member for transport, Cllr Steve Reade, said:

“We are pleased to announce these new dates for the railway bridge move on Gipsy Patch Lane. We have all watched the project progress over the last 12 months and this will be a positive step towards reaching our goal of completing such an important transport project for the area.”

“We understand these new dates, particularly the length of closure for Gipsy Patch Lane, will bring with them an extended period of disruption. We sincerely apologise for this and would like to take this opportunity to thank the local community for their continued patience and understanding.”

Aerial photo (May 2020) showing the almost-complete new concrete bridge within the Alun Griffiths site compound.
Aerial photo (May 2020) showing the almost-complete new concrete bridge within the Alun Griffiths site compound. Also visible (circled) are the pile caps (foundations for the new bridge) at the four corners of the existing bridge and a ramp that has been constructed up the railway embankment to provide vehicular access to the top of the bridge (for demolition and reinstatement).

South Gloucestershire Council statement on road closures and pedestrian access under the existing railway bridge

Gipsy Patch Lane and Station Road junction

Gipsy Patch Lane and the junction with Station Road need to remain closed until after the bridge move is complete and the road beneath the bridge has been lowered. The road and junction are expected to remain closed to vehicles until approximately July 2021.

This new timeframe takes into consideration the extra time needed to carry out work whilst observing the current government guidelines on coronavirus and social distancing.

It is not possible to reopen the road fully to all road users prior to the bridge move because of the extent of work that has already been completed. The road closure also needs to remain in place whilst Network Rail and Alun Griffiths continue with preparatory and highways work, such as the creation of the SPMT roadway.

Pedestrian access

A footpath, suitable for pedestrians and dismounted cyclists only, has been reopened under the railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane and will remain open until further notice. The footpath is narrow and pedestrians are advised to take extra care should they need to use it.

However, the footpath will need to close when the bridge move takes place in the autumn. When this happens the free shuttle bus service will be reinstated for those pedestrians needing to make essential journeys either side of Gipsy Patch Lane. We will provide advance notice to the community when the footpath needs to close.

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GPL bridge replacement: Recent work & forward plan

May 2020

  • Completion of pile cap works
  • Continuation of construction and testing of SPMT roadway
  • Waterproofing of the bridge
  • BT diversion works
  • Ducting in Strenco verge

June 2020

  • BT diversion works (ongoing)
  • Remove stage 2 sheet piles
  • Finish SPMT roadway, including tarmac

July 2020

  • Waterproofing to bridge
  • Back of abutment wall drainage work

August 2020

  • Commence culvert works
  • Highway drainage works (brought forward)
  • Apply anti-graffiti paint to bridge abutments

“The site is currently operating on reduced staff levels so we can comply with current government guidelines on social distancing.”

More information and related links:

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on pages 6 & 7). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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