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Network Rail has developed a striking and innovative footbridge that has the potential to improve safety, drastically cut construction costs and transform rail crossings.

The curved, modular ’flow’ bridge, made of lightweight Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP), has been named to reflect its modern, flowing design.

Flow footbridge side view
Aeriel view of the completed Flow footbridge
Aeriel side view of the Flow footbridge.
Aeriel view of Flow footbridge construction
Aeriel view of the Flow footbridge construction
Aeriel view of the Flow footbridge construction
Aeriel view of Flow footbridge during construction

A Network Rail-led project, the bridge has been delivered and developed by in-house teams from the Research and Development Portfolio, Network Rail Design Delivery and Wales and Western region.

Over just 11 months, we have worked with small and medium-sized businesses to design and manufacture a prototype.  The bridge will cost considerably less than traditional steel structures to produce and install. No concrete has been used in the structure or its foundations – and it’s less than half the weight of a traditional footbridge.

The new-look bridge will initially be used to replace high-risk rural footpath crossings – as part of our ongoing drive to make the railway safer and easier for pedestrians to cross.  

The adaptable, modular design means it is well suited to a variety of locations and its low cost will enable us to also replace existing bridges which might otherwise be temporarily fixed or refurbished.

The 21m long bridge has an in-built monitoring system to record how it performs and is used, allowing future improvements to the design and more efficient maintenance.

Flow footbridge steps close up
Flow footbridge underside view
Flow footbridge underside view
Flow footbridge underside
Flow footbridge diagram showing the main and secondary arches
Diagram showing key sections of the Flow footbridge
Diagram showing justification for the translucent parapet design
Flow footbridge overall design diagram
Diagram showing comparison of two typical squarer layouts and the final curved layout

The prototype has been trial built at a test centre in Long Marston, Warwickshire, and is on show there at the 2021 RAIL Live event on Wednesday 16 June and Thursday 17 June, 2021.

Work is planned to develop a ramped version of the bridge and we will listen to the views of stakeholders and the community as we continue to work on the design. 

Flow footbridge construction time-lapse video

The time-lapse video shows construction of the prototype Flow footbridge over five weeks at a test track in Warwickshire. The team took necessary precautions to keep each other safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19 by working within current Government guidelines.

Why Flow?

The name reflects the bridge’s curved, open design and sums up its attributes:

  • F – Fibre Reinforced Polymer, incorporating natural and sustainable materials.
  • L – Lower cost and lighter weight, in comparison to traditional steel bridges.
  • O – Optimised design to incorporate both architectural forms and functional needs to maximise operational use.
  • W – ‘Working’ bridge with monitoring bult in to support asset management.

More information about the footbridge's development

Contact us

For more information or to get in touch with us, please contact us by visiting our contact us page or by calling our 24-hour national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.

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