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Fri July 30 2021

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Rail crew lifts 80-tonne bridge by hand [–video]

28 Jun Network Rail contractor Amco Giffen has completed a six-week project to improve the flood resilience of a bridge in Powys.

Black Bridge is over the River Dulas in Powys
Black Bridge is over the River Dulas in Powys

The 80-tonne structure was lifted one metre using manual chain hoists to reduce incidences of flooding on the tracks.

Black Bridge, over the River Dulas in Powys, on the Cambrian Line between Machynlleth and Shrewsbury, has closed 30 times in the past decade due to floods route. It closed 10 times in 2020 alone for emergency repairs caused by flood water.

A £3.6m operation has now lifted the structure clear of the water. As this stretch of river is a fish spawning river there was a limited period during which the work could be carried out.

Since 15th May a workforce of 360 has clocked up more than 32,000 hours to deliver this project in just six weeks. The line reopened on today, 28th June 2021.

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Engineers opted to lift the 80-tonne bridge manually, rather than using hydraulics, to ensure there was no twisting or buckling of the structure. Eight sets of 20-tonne chain hoists were used in total. For every 10 metres of chain pulled, the bridge was raised just 10mm. 

This resulted in more than 12,800 metres (12.8km) of chain being pulled by hand through the lifting blocks.

Richard Compton, project manager for Network Rail Wales and Borders, said:  “Black Bridge has repeatedly flooded over the years during periods of heavy rainfall, causing regular closures and long delays for passengers. We experienced this flooding first-hand during our work, which shows exactly why raising the bridge is so important.”  

AmcoGiffen regional operations director Andy Crowley said: “With nine months from concept to completion, we knew from the outset that it was going to be challenging to deliver this scheme in such a short timescale. We also understood the necessity behind the risk being taken.  Collaboration was crucial from the start and when severe weather hit the early days of the project, we all worked together to recoup the lost time and maintain our schedule."

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