Mabey Hire develops new bridge lifting technique for Network Rail

Unique system enables essential work to 150-year-old viaduct, with plans for wider applications in the future.

Leading bridge and engineering services specialist Mabey Hire has today unveiled a new bridge lifting technique – the first of its kind in the UK. Developed with Alun Griffiths Ltd, Cass Hayward and Network Rail IP Engineering, the new system has been successfully applied to a trial project for Network Rail and is now being considered for wider applications, including the upcoming refurbishment of Barmouth viaduct, the longest viaduct in Wales.

Mabey Hire’s new approach involves a combination of proprietary steel supports and jacking, designed to be built remotely and transported into position. The system has been successfully trialled in a live environment on a single pier which forms part of a 150-year-old timber viaduct over the River Artro in Gwynedd, saving time and minimising disruption to Network Rail’s Pensarn to Llanbedr line.

The innovative system allows the repair or complete replacement of timber crossheads or support piers without having to strip the track and deck structures, enabling the repairs to be carried out more quickly, safely and efficiently. If applied to larger timber viaducts, such as the one in Barmouth, the saving in time and cost would be significant.

The contract forms part of Network Rail’s £1.4million Railway Upgrade Plan to improve services and accommodate growing passenger numbers in the local area. Mabey Hire was appointed by civil engineering and construction contractor Alun Griffiths, to supply a combined jacking frame to trial the replacement of the timber crosshead with minimal disruption to the railway above.

The design was developed and demonstrated at Mabey Hire’s engineering facility at Garswood, near Wigan.

Steve Richardson, Contracts Manager, Rail, Alun Griffiths Contractors Ltd., comments: “We approached Mabey Hire because of their expertise in delivering bespoke, smart engineering solutions in a short time-frame. As a long-term partner of ours, the team clearly understood our unique engineering requirements and the importance of developing a system that will bring significant benefits when adopted and applied to larger projects in the future. The successful trial over the River Artro will change the way we approach and programme these repairs.”

Andrew Sperring, Programme Manager for Network Rail in Wales and the borders, said: “The railway is vital to economic growth. Our essential renewal work to the River Artro viaduct will ensure it remains safe and reliable long into the future."

“This project will play a key role in our improvement work to Barmouth viaduct, allowing us to use our new bridge lift techniques on a similar structure."

Gordon MacDonald, CEO, Mabey Hire, comments: “The River Artro viaduct is a vital crossing for passengers travelling on the route from Pensarn to Llanbedr, so trialling the replacing of the timber crosshead in the quickest, safest and most efficient way possible was key. Our innovative new jacking system was a momentous success, and the new bridge lifting techniques are being considered for wider Network Rail improvement works to the nearby Barmouth viaduct.”

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