First phase of work to boost reliability on East Anglia swing bridges completed

The first phase of work to improve the reliability of swing bridges in Norfolk and Suffolk has been completed.

View of Reedham swing bridge

Shot of Reedham swing bridge - Credit: Network Rail

Network Rail has completed a package of works on swing bridges in Norfolk and Suffolk as part of a project to improve their reliability. During the work, Network Rail’s engineers replaced parts to make the bridges less likely to develop faults and reducing the need for costly maintenance. East Anglia’s swing bridges, designed to carry trains over waterways and swing open to let boats through, are over 100 years old and their internal parts have become unreliable, necessitating the need for upgrade work.

Vital reliability works

Credit: Network Rail

Engineers have carried out vital works on Reedham and Somerleyton swing bridges. At both bridges they have:

  • Installed a beam in the building that houses the swing bridge machinery. This will make the building strong enough for a temporary opening to be made in the wall. The opening will allow old and heavy machinery to be moved out and replaced with modern, more reliable equipment.
  • Upgraded and replaced the manual winch system. This allows the bridge to be swung open manually by the bridge operator if there are problems with the machinery, keeping trains and boat users moving.
  • Completed a full renewal and upgrade of the electrical system.

Dates for future works will be announced in the future and will primarily include a full replacement of the hydraulic and mechanical systems that the bridges use to open and close. During October, survey work was additionally carried out at Oulton Broad swing bridge, which is also part of the project.

The upgrade of the three swing bridges will help Greater Anglia train passengers and boat users get to their destinations on time for years to come, while enabling the historic structures to keep being operated in the modern day.

Beam installation at Somerleyton swing bridge

Beam installation at Somerleyton swing bridge – Credit: Network Rail

“These bridges on the Wherry and East Suffolk lines are an important part of our railway heritage and also critical pieces of infrastructure that keep both rail and boat traffic moving,” Ellie Burrows, Route Director for Anglia at Network Rail, said. “Renewing the components will reduce the risk of mechanical problems and help keep services running safely, smoothly and reliably for our passengers, as well as maintaining access to the ports and marinas.”

“This much-needed investment by Network Rail into the Broads’ swing bridges is very much welcomed by the Broads Authority and our boating communities,” Rob Rogers, Director of Operations for Broads Authority, said. “It has been a challenging few years for our river users regarding the bridges and we are delighted to hear that work is progressing to allow them to reliably open for river traffic.”

Reedham swing bridge open

Reedham swing bridge open – Credit: Network Rail