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UK Reveals Next Generation of Rail Footbridges

Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Great Britain’s owner and infrastructure manager of most of the country’s railway network, Network Rail Limited, has recently unveiled designs for what it’s calling the next generation of rail footbridges.

Previously, the Network Rail had just one option when constructing a new footbridge or replacing an old one, which involved a standard non-station footbridge. According to reports, the design was touted as heavy, unattractive and expensive to deliver.

In revolutionizing the way these structures are built over the tracks, Network Rail looked to fiber-reinforced polymer, a more lightweight material capable of being installed in just days as compared to weeks. The material’s modular design also makes the structure more easily adaptable to different locations, leading to lower transport and installation costs.

“We were able to take a different approach. This has allowed us to work with several small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom haven’t worked on railway projects before but have the skills and expertise to bring the concept of a lightweight, low-cost footbridge to life,” said Andy Cross, Program Manager at Network Rail.

“In just 11 months we have developed a prototype bridge that is stunning in design, environmentally friendly and will take days and not weeks to install and thereby causing less disruption for the surrounding community.”

Network Rail Limited

Great Britain’s owner and infrastructure manager of most of the country’s railway network, Network Rail Limited, has recently unveiled designs for what it’s calling the next generation of rail footbridges.

Not only does the new circular bridge design report to have quicker installation time due to its weight and is environmentally friendly, among other adaptations, but crews have also included a built-in monitoring system so that usage and maintenance needs can be assessed at any time.

The following organizations worked with Network Rail to develop and design the new structure:

  • Knight Architects developed the concept;
  • Consulting engineer Jacobs provided design expertise and independent checking of the design;
  • KS Composite, a U.K.-based manufacturer, created the bridge’s spine;
  • Sui Generi, another U.K. manufacturer, made the deck units that clamp to the spine;
  • Epsilon Optics designed, manufactured, and installed the fiber-optic monitoring system;
  • Q-Railings installed the glazed parapet railing;
  • JT Consulting designed, manufactured, and installed the Rapid Root foundation system; and
  • Flofo provided virtual working platforms and new approaches to team working and monitoring the risks and opportunities of the project.

The team, alongside Network Rail, hopes that the design will be adopted across the country as part of a wider program of work to transform how footbridges are built on the rail network in future. However, the team also foresees the new design as providing an alternative to repairing existing crossings.

A prototype of the rail footbridge has been trial-built at a test center in Long Marston, Warwickshire, and was shown during a 2021 Rail Live event from June 16-17. The next phase of the project involves developing sustainable procurement and construction options as well as a ramped version of the bridge.

Network Rail’s Research and Development portfolio expects to invest over 350 million pounds ($489 million) in research, development & innovation through its five-year control period to March 2024 to drive improvements in efficiency and safety in the rail industry through new technology.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Design build; EU; Europe; Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP); Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Rail

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