100-year-old Norfolk swing bridges to be upgraded

Network Rail will overhaul three swing bridges in Norfolk to improve reliability and reduce maintenance costs.

Electrical and mechanical components of three swing bridges in Norfolk are being replaced and refurbished to keep services running reliably and prevent disruption at ports and marinas.

The internal components on the Somerleyton, Reedham and Oulton Broad swing bridges haven’t been replaced in over 100 years. As a consequence, they need regular maintenance to keep them operating and break down frequently, delaying trains and necessitating emergency repairs.

Starting early in 2022, Network Rail will replace the winch system, hydraulic jacks and pipework, lighting across the bridges, and install a new power system as part of a £5.5 million programme of work. This will make the structures easier to maintain for the coming 25 years, saving up to a combined £7.5 million in future costs.

Once the work is complete, the bridges will be able to operate more reliably throughout the year, giving river traffic consistent access to the ports and marinas, benefitting the local economy, especially throughout summer as tourists visit the area. The bridges will break-down less frequently and save more than £100,000 a year, per bridge, in maintenance costs. 

The work will be carried out sympathetically, maintaining the current look-and-feel of the historic bridges.

Surveys of the three structures were largely carried out using drones, removing the need for engineers to close the railway and visit each site on foot, allowing them to complete the surveys in a matter of hours, whilst also keeping the railway running.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “These bridges are an important part of our railway heritage and also an important part of keeping both rail and boat traffic moving. Renewing the components will reduce the risk of mechanical problems and help keep services running safely, smoothly and reliably for our passengers, as well as maintaining access to the ports and marinas.

“The use of drones to complete survey work is a great example of how we’re innovating to keep the railway running with minimised risk to our staff, minimised disruption for passengers and at reduced cost for taxpayers.”

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