Home » HS2 team celebrates 6,200-tonne Lichfield bridge drive

HS2 team celebrates 6,200-tonne Lichfield bridge drive

by Mark Cantrell
The HS2 and BBV team celebrate the UK's heaviest bridge drive

A massive concrete structure weighing in at over 6,000 tonnes was successfully driven into place beneath the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to create an intersection bridge.

The engineering feat is said to be the UK’s heaviest drive to install such a structure; it’s also a huge milestone for HS2 in the West Midlands.

The single-span bridge is situated at Fulfen Wood, near Lichfield, and will allow Britain’s new high-speed railway to pass beneath the busy existing railway line, on its route going north of Birmingham Curzon Street Station up to Crewe.

At 56 metres in length and 19 wide, moving the 6,200-tonne bridge was clearly far from easy.

It was constructed alongside the existing mainline over the last six months, then it was slowly manoeuvred into place on a self-propelled modular transporter system.

Specialist lifting company, Mammoet UK Ltd, based in Stockton-on-Tees, took care of the bridge move using its state-of-the-art transportation equipment.

The 840-wheeled transporter, with four carrier beams, is specially designed for seriously heavy lifting, and was controlled by a remote steering system.

Peter Schoenmakers, the company’s lead engineer, said: “The Fulfen Wood Overbridge installation does show that with a collaborative approach, and early engagement with all involved parties during the design stage of the structure, a cost effective and a most efficient installation method can be developed early on in the project.

“The early engagement allowed the designers of the structure to design the bridge that suited the available and existing equipment to be used, and no special equipment had to be fabricated or purchased; this approach is very important from a sustainability perspective.

“All in all, this was a great project for Mammoet and we are proud to be part of its success.”

Everything kept on track

The 6,200 tonne Fulfen Wood overbridge moved under the West Coast Main Line
Moving the bridge into place. Image courtesy of HS2

In the six months the bridge was being constructed, over 61,000 cubic metres of earth was removed to prepare for its installation.

Then, two days before, the team removed the railway track and excavated over 15,000 cubic metres of material to create the space for the structure to be moved into.

Around 300 people working for HS2’s civils contractor, Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) were involved in delivering the milestone.

This included a 200-strong team working 24/7 to move the bridge, backfill around it, and put the railway back ready for its scheduled reopening.

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BBV section engineer Chloe Foster-Chambers was part of that team. She said: “As an engineer, big feats of engineering like this bridge drive make HS2 such a fantastic project to work on.

“It’s been a real team effort over the last two years, and seeing the operation successfully completed felt like a great achievement for everyone involved.”

The operation took place during a nine-day closure of the railway between Stafford and Rugby while Network Rail carried out upgrades as part of a multi-million-pound investment to improve future WCML journeys through the West Midlands.

Specialist construction company, Byrne Bros – one of over 3,000 supply chain companies working on the HS2 project – led the bridge build.

The company’s construction director, Tom Lyons, called it an “amazing” and “complex engineering” project and praised the “teamwork and leadership”.

Caroline Warrington, HS2’s senior project manager, said: “This huge feat of engineering – the UK’s heaviest single span bridge drive – is our latest big milestone as we approach peak construction on Phase One of HS2.

“We’re making fantastic progress on this section of the route, with over 9,000 people working on the project in the Midlands and over 29,500 on the whole project, providing a vital boost for British businesses and jobs.”

Image and video credit: HS2

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