Infrastructure insights: bridges

Our bridges have been in the spotlight this month with a national campaign to reduce the number of bridge strikes.

There are more than 2,000 strikes in Britain each year, costing millions of pounds of damage and thousands of hours of train delays.

Maintaining and developing our 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts is an enormous task. Many of these structures date from the Victorian era, meaning modernisation is a significant part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.

What we’re doing

Improvements include a £7m rolling programme of investment in Dumbarton’s railway bridges in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland this year. The project includes 11 structures and is based on the condition and individual requirements of each bridge or tunnel. This can include drainage work, deck replacements, steel strengthening, and painting.

It’s part of a broader maintenance programme that will extend the lifespan of our lifespan and keep the road and rail network safe and reliable. Work is scheduled for completion by 2019.

Essential maintenance in Dumbarton

In Cheshire, we’re repairing and restoring the Runcorn viaduct as part of the Great North Rail Project as the bridge approaches its 150th birthday in October.

Network Rail’s Team Orange have been strengthening, waterproofing and refurbishing the bridge’s timber, steel and brick structures since October last year. The essential work will help make the busy railway bridge safer and more reliable.

Meanwhile, our completed projects include the Ordsall Chord railway bridge – the world’s first asymmetrical rail bridge. Open since November, it links Manchester’s Victoria, Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations for the first time. It also enables direct services to Manchester Airport from the North.

Ordsall Chord railway bridge – a world first


Reconstructing bridges to fit overhead wires is a costly part of electrifying the railway, so in 2014 we teamed up with Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) and the Department for Transport to find an alternative, with the help of a competition.

One of the projects to receive funding was ElevArch, an innovative bridge-jacking technique from Freyssinet and Bill Harvey Associates that can lift masonry arch bridges, preventing the need for demolition and reconstruction.

Watch a video explaining this pioneering method, find out more about the Avoidance of Bridge Reconstruction competition and discover how we work with structures on the railway by clicking the button below.

Find out more about our bridges, tunnels and viaducts

Read about how we inspect structures on the railway