Saturday, 24 April 2010

NR's Great Western is no Great Western!

This just in from D1048...

Into the inbox thunders a missive from Network Rail, with the announcement of a thorough refurbishment for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's iconic Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.

Welcome news.

But what's this comment from Route Director Chris Rayner?

It will be the most complex refurbishment work since the bridge was built”.


Given that NR is expecting to spend around £10m to 'strengthen, restore and repaint' the bridge over the next three years, it may certainly be the most expensive refurbishment in the bridge's 150-year history, but the most complex?

Just for the record, the Great Western Railway undertook a major refurbishment of the Royal Albert Bridge back in 1928, when the main girders supporting the 15 approach spans on both banks were completely replaced.

In an eerie foretaste of NR's proposed high-output 'factory train' model, the innovative GWR developed a special wagon to undertake the renewal work. This carried the new girders to site, supported the deck whilst swinging the old girders out and lifting new ones into place, before retreating again with the old girders for removal. A very good explanation of how it was done - with pictures - can be found here.

And what is more the whole process could be carried out - with manual labour - in just 3 1/2 hours, allowing an entire span to be replaced in a 5-hour Sunday morning possession. Certainly not three years!

Is this another case of today's railway having no corporate memory before 1993?

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Or 2002 in the case of Network Rail.