Network Rail has announced that the underpass at Stonea, on the Ely-Peterborough railway line between March and Manea, will remain temporarily closed for safety reasons until late 2020 to allow for crucial repair works
The bridge has a height restriction of 2.1m (7ft) and has been struck by vehicles 13 times in 2019. The last collision in October caused significant damage to the bridge’s impact protection beam and supporting brickwork.
Originally built in 1895, the bridge at Stonea is the one of the lowest bridge structures over a highway on the Anglia rail network. The section of the bridge deck supporting the railway is made of wrought iron troughs supporting timbers onto which the rails are fastened. Walkways, supported by cast iron beams on either side of the railway, are used by Network Rail maintenance teams
The collision on 21 October, when agricultural machinery being towed struck the bridge, broke the outer cast iron protection beam supporting the maintenance walkway on one side of the bridge. The beam is now unsafe and needs to be removed along with the walkway itself – it is now propped to prevent it falling onto the road until it can be safely removed.
Having assessed the damage in recent weeks, Network Rail contractors will now remove the damaged cast iron beam and timber walkway at track level and begin the lengthy process of installing a new protection beam over the coming months.
A new impact protection beam will be designed to withstand future bridge strikes and will include visible signage to warn motorists of the bridge’s height restriction.
The surveys, design and associated repair works will take 9-12 months to complete and the underpass will therefore remain closed for this period. Drivers can continue to use the level crossing next to the underpass to cross the railway, although a temporary speed restriction of 20mph has been placed on its approaches, along with improved lighting, to ensure road safety.
Mark Budden, Network Rail (Anglia) route director, said: “Because of the extensive damage caused by the vehicle strike in October, we need to ensure no other vehicles can strike the bridge until a new impact protection beam has been installed. This is crucial in enabling us to safely run train services between Ely and Peterborough.
“I recognise that the works will cause some inconvenience for local residents and motorists using the underpass and adjacent level crossing, but once complete, we hope the upgraded beam will protect the bridge for years to come.”