‘First-of-its-kind’ rail footbridge opens to improve level crossing safety

Posted: 27 January 2023 | | 2 comments

Opened in the UK, the eye-catching level crossing structure known as a ‘FLOW’ bridge, is equipped with a real-time structural health monitoring system which records how it performs, allowing future improvements to the design and more efficient maintenance.

Network Rail's FLOW bridge

A village in Shropshire, UK, has had a major railway crossing safety boost with the installation of a Network Rail designed ‘FLOW’ bridge. The first location to benefit from the prototype is a rural crossing, just north of Craven Arms, in the Shropshire hills, with the footbridge officially opening to the public at a community event on Friday 27 January 2023.

Designed and funded by Network Rail’s Research and Development (R&D) team, alongside leading industry specialists, the bridge aims to provide a faster, more sustainable, and affordable option to assist with the closure of dangerous railway foot crossings around the UK.

The footbridge in Shrophire replaces an extremely high-risk level crossing that closed a number of years ago after it was deemed unsafe for use. This was due to the position of the loop – the layby to the side of the main track – at this location, which prevented pedestrians from having clear visibility of oncoming trains.

The ‘FLOW’ bridge

‘FLOW’ stands for fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP), lower cost, optimised design, working bridge, but the name also underpins its striking and modular design. The 21m long bridge, has been designed to save time and money – costing around 40% less than traditional steel structures. No concrete is used in the foundations, reducing its carbon footprint, and it weighs half of a traditional steel bridge, meaning lower transportation and installation costs.

With the majority of construction taking place off site, installation is able to take place without disruption to passenger services.

The bridge is equipped with a real-time structural health monitoring system (SHM) which records how it performs, allowing future improvements to the design and more efficient maintenance, as well as tracking its use.

FLOW bridge

The FLOW bridge is an innovative ‘first-of-its-kind’ railway crossing footbridge, replacing a previous dangerous level crossing.

Andy Cross, Programme Manager at Network Rail Wales and Borders, played a key role in designing the bridge. He said: “The FLOW bridge was designed, first and foremost, as a safety solution but our teams have also gone above and beyond to create a quicker and more sustainable option for the future of the railway. Its versatile design means we have already started looking at fully accessible versions, with lifts and ramps, for other locations where that would be a suitable option.”

Nick Millington, Interim Route Director at Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “We want to close as many dangerous level crossings as possible, and this new footbridge shows it can be done while saving tax-payers money and without the need to disrupt passengers’ journeys during installation. This prototype has the potential to transform railway crossings, making them safer, more affordable and fit for the future.”

Owen Thomas, R&D Project Manager at Network Rail, said: “Thanks to the hard work of our research and development team at Network Rail, we’ve managed to create a prototype that demonstrates the versatility of composite materials in construction on the railway.”


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2 responses to “‘First-of-its-kind’ rail footbridge opens to improve level crossing safety”

  1. Bob says:

    PS Fully Accessible is ALWAYS the only acceptable option at all locations. It is not a choice for suitable locations but the standard that should never be diviated from in any location.

  2. Bob says:

    brand new bridge designed to prevent people with disabilities from crossing the track. would be illegal in USA. should be illegal (as built) anywhere in the world

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