Upgrades to Oulton Broad Swing Bridge

Oulton Broad swing bridge
Oulton Broad swing bridge. Network Rail photo

Network Rail is getting ready to renew and refurbish the electrical and mechanical systems of the Oulton Broad swing bridge along the East Suffolk Line and the two swing bridges on the Wherry Lines; this is to ensure services keep running reliably and to prevent disruption to river traffic at the port and marinas.

The internal components on the Oulton Broad, Somerleyton, Reedham and swing bridges haven’t been replaced in more than 100 years and are frequently repaired. Each bridge costs more than £100,000 a year to maintain.

Preliminary works and maintenance will take place this weekend Saturday 22 May and Sunday 23 May; rail services on the East Suffolk Line Halesworth – Lowestoft and the Wherry Lines Lowestoft – Norwich will be replaced by a bus.

Starting in early 2022 Network Rail will perform internal upgrades as part of a £5.5 million programme of work. The winch systems, hydraulic jacks, pipework and lighting will be replaced and a new power system installed. This will make the structures easier to maintain for the next 25 years whilst saving up to a combined £7.5 million in future costs.

Once the work is complete the bridges will be able to operate more reliably throughout the year, giving river traffic consistent access to the port and marinas which will help benefit the local economy especially during the summer. The bridges will break-down less often saving taxpayer-funded Network Rail more than £100,000 a year, per bridge, in maintenance costs.

The work to the internal elements of the bridges will be carried out whilst maintaining the heritage look-and-feel of each bridge.

In order to prepare for the work, surveys were completed using aerial drones. As a result the surveys were completed in hours as opposed to what would have taken days if engineers had to visit the bridges on foot.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “These bridges are an important part of our railway heritage and also an important part of keeping both rail and boat traffic moving. 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.

“The use of drones to complete survey work is a great example of how we’re innovating to keep the railway running with minimised risk to our staff, minimised disruption for passengers and at reduced cost for taxpayers.”

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director said: “This work will make our Norwich and Ipswich to Lowestoft lines even more reliable, which I know our customers will welcome. While the work is going on we will make sure customers can still complete their journeys with a rail replacement bus service.”