Bristol Parkway to Newport line reopens after major overrun

Gypsy Patch bridge has reopened for trains after a 16-day delay. It will remain closed to road traffic until July 2021.

Gypsy Patch bridge, on the Great Western main line just south of Patchway station, between Bristol Parkway and the Severn tunnel to South Wales, has reopened to trains after a 16-day delay.

The original stone-arched bridge was to be replaced by a modern, wider structure so that the road under the railway could be widened and lowered to become part of the route for the Cribbs Patchway metrobus extension (CPME).

The original Gypsy Patch bridge. Note the set of points directly on top of the bridge.

To keep the railway open as long as possible, the replacement bridge, along with abutments and wing walls, was built up on site a short distance from its final location. Then the railway would be closed for 13 days between Sunday 25 October and Friday 6 November. During this time, the following work would be carried out:

  • Railway lines and overhead wires removed
  • Old bridge demolished
  • Embankments cut back to leave room for the new bridge
  • New bridge driven into place atop two giant transporters and lowered into position
  • Embankment restored
  • Railway lines and overhead wires replaced
Demolishing the original bridge.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. The new 4,260-tonne railway bridge was the heaviest precast concrete bridge ever to be moved this way in UK.

The ‘roadway’ over which the two transporters were to be driven was hard-packed earth and rubble but, just as the move was to take place, it rained. The transporters got to within 30 metres of their destination when their wheels sank into the softened ground.

The new bridge would be transported into position when its new site (just off the bottom of the photo) had been prepared.

Several attempts were made to extract the transporters, but eventually the bridge had to be lowered onto hastily made props, relieving the load on transporters so they could be hauled clear.

A tarmac surface was laid, covered with metal track panels, and the repaired transporters could finish their job, 16 days late.

The bridge, on top of its two massive transporters, is finally in place.

Network Rail and contractor Alun Griffiths then worked around the clock to relay the track, including a set of points that lies directly on top of the bridge, and get the railway open.

Although the railway reopened on Monday 23 November, the road will be closed until July 2021 as its level has to be dropped to give sufficient clearance for the CPME buses.

Cllr Reade was please that the bridge was finally in position.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Environment and Strategic Infrastructure, Cllr Steve Reade, said: “It is good to see the new railway bridge in place on Gipsy Patch Lane after so much hard work.

“This has been a significant engineering project that involved the heaviest lift of its kind in the UK and was not without risk and not without its challenges.

Track in place, the railway is ready to reopen.

“The bridge replacement work marks a crucial milestone for the CPME project, which will help improve public transport in South Gloucestershire by extending the popular metrobus service.

“The new bridge will not only alleviate a known pinch point on a busy route but will also improve facilities for cyclists and pedestrians and provide infrastructure for a new bus route.

“We would like to thank people for their continued patience as we progress to the next phase of work, which will include lowering the road below the new bridge.”

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