Things are certainly moving for HS2 in the West Midlands lately, with the third mammoth bridge section within a month successfully shunted into place.
A team of 250 people were involved in the round-the-clock exercise to shift the 5,600-tonne bridge into place under the Coventry to Leamington Spa railway in Warwickshire.
Given it weight and dimensions – 22 metres long and 11 metres wide – it was clearly no easy task. The operation took 5.5 hours to move into position – but was completed 27 hours ahead of schedule.
James Briggs, HS2’s project manager overseeing the move, said the team had done a “brilliant job”.
“I’d like to thank everyone for pulling together to deliver such an efficient and safe operation,” he added.
“The bridge was built on-site adjacent to the existing railway – an innovative approach, which means it takes days, not months, to safely complete our works, keeping disruption to a minimum for rail passengers.”
To make way for the bridge, 113 metres of existing rail track and 188 rail sleepers had to be removed, then 15,000 cubic metres of ground – including hard sandstone material – was excavated to create the space needed from the new structure.
Time was of the essence: the line was suspended from 29 July so that the work could be carried out to schedule, ahead of the railway line being re-opened in August.
The bridge was moved into place using five 3.8 tonne jacks on a sliding surface, designed by specialist civil and structural engineering company Freyssinet. This allowed the bridge to be jacked on a guiding raft slab over a distance of 47 metres.
It moved at around nine meters per hour and took 5.5 hours to be moved into its final position at 3.30am on Monday 31 July.
In the following days, the team worked 24/7 to backfill around the structure and put the rail track back in place above it, ready for the railway to be re-opened.
Shamus Banaghan, project manager for Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), said: “I am particularly proud to work alongside such an experienced team, who have worked around the clock to successfully slide the bridge into position under the Coventry to Leamington Spa railway line.
“Over the last two and a half years through design development to implementation, we have remained focused on delivering this critical bridge move during the fixed Network Rail blockade. I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has contributed to us achieving this latest feat of engineering ahead of schedule.”
The structure will allow the high speed railway to pass underneath the existing Coventry to Leamington Spa line. In the short term it will also allow construction traffic to pass under this line, reducing the number of lorries on the public highways.
The structure also features an adjoining access bridge for a nearby farmer, which will start construction shortly.
This is the third major bridge move undertaken by HS2 in the last few weeks, as construction ramps up on all the structures, including bridges and viaducts, where HS2 will intersect with existing railway lines and roads in the West Midlands.
On 17 July, a 6,200 tonne bridge was moved into place by an 840-wheeled transporter at Fulfen Wood near Lichfield under the existing West Coast Main Line. On 28 July, a 2,600 tonne bridge was also driven under the existing South Staffordshire freight railway line at nearby Streethay.
HS2’s civils contractor BBV is delivering the construction work, and a design joint venture of Mott MacDonald and Systra delivered the design.
John Emery, senior sponsor for Network Rail, said: “This is a fantastic milestone for HS2, who we have worked with closely to combine their major construction work with a project to strengthen a historic railway viaduct near Leamington Spa, which will help to secure the future of this key route for passengers and freight services.
Main image: HS2’s 5,600 tonne bridge being moved into place. It is intended to carry high speed trains under Coventry to Leamington Spa railway
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