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Downwell Rail is no match for British winter

Downwell had been awarded a Christmas rail project by Osborne. The project was to dismantle a railway bridge in a small Bedfordshire town called Biggleswade.

Months of planning and designing the scheme saw both Downwell and Osborne’s technical teams working flat out leading up to the Christmas break to ensure that the method was finalised and passed off by Network Rail. Certain elements of enabling works were able to be completed in the weeks before the possession. This work included services diversions, road surfaces removal, saw cutting through 75% depth and exposing the fixings.

The bridge deck was made up of concrete planks spanning from east west across 3 brick buttresses. The method was to saw cut along the joins of the planks then removing the fixings to free the plank. There were 2 mobile cranes positioned either side of the bridge tasked with lifting out the planks once they were freed and loading them onto a flat bed lorry for processing and recycling off site.

Everyone assigned to the project arrived to site on Christmas Eve night to start work on the first shift. The power lines were dropped along the track, the scaffold deck was erected, the brick parapets were demolished, the final 25% of saw cutting was completed on the first planks to be lifted and the bolts were cut holding them down. The crane began to lift out the planks in the agreed sequence.

There had been concerns about the strong winds forecast for that night but the works were given the green light to proceed. However several hours into the project the wind speed got too high and for safety reasons the cranes were stopped from working. It was unlikely that the wind would die down so the project was aborted and the clear up began.

The lines were given the all clear to reopen again on Boxing Day evening in time for the trains to start running again.

The project is to be rescheduled for a future possession and is likely to be completed in February.

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