160-year-old Cambrian line viaduct gets major refurbishment

Work on the Severn and Carno viaduct near Caersws, Powys, was completed on Friday 19 May as well as a large section of track work near Newtown.

The Cambrian line was closed for 16 days, from Friday 6 to Monday 22 May with Transport for Wales operating a rail replacement bus service between Shrewsbury and Machynlleth. 

With the viaduct now looking better that is has in decades, local communities and tourists can fully enjoy a normal working train service in the area of surrounding natural beauty in the summer period. 

First constructed in 1860, the 70-metre-long viaduct has been reconstructed twice in 1906 and 1927, and carried the railway over where the rivers Carno and Severn meet. 

By jacking up the railway on top of the viaduct and working from floating platforms, or pontoons, on the river, teams of engineers from Network Rail and contractors AmcoGiffen have replaced three of a total of eleven spans of timber beams. They also carried out remedial work on the rest of the bridge, including the replacement of metallic straps and fixings. 

Severn and Carno viaduct spans.

In their commitment to a greener railway, Network Rail has recycled 100% of the replaced timber from the viaduct. A total of 17-tonnes of timber has been donated to local farmers and residents. The local school has already made plans to use the timber to construct outside benches for their pupils. 

Additional teams removed and replaced two kilometres of track further east in Newtown to increase the reliability of journeys for passengers. Extra resilience work was also carried out on railway points (which allow trains to move from one track to another) along with drainage installation. 

Overnight track renewal work on the Cambrian line will continue until Friday 7 July to prevent service disruption. 

Simon Roberts, programme manager at Network Rail Wales & Borders, said: “We are delighted that we have given this 160-year-old viaduct a new lease of life. Now that it has been strengthened, there is less chance of the railway closing due to urgent repairs and passengers can enjoy a normal service ahead of the busy summer period. 

“The local community have been very supportive, and it is a cherry on top that we have been able to recycle 100% of all the old timber and donate back to the community.” 

Claire Williams, Partnership Development Officer for the Cambrian Railway Partnership said: “It is wonderful to see the railway line reopen again for passengers and that the work carried out will make this spectacular line more resilient for years to come. 

“We would like to thank the communities for being so patient and understanding whilst this vital restoration and reconstruction work has been taking place. We are also really pleased that local residents, farmers and schools have been able to make use of the old timber from the viaduct, a great example of sustainability.”

Image credit: Network Rail

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