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Restoration work on historic Barmouth Viaduct set to be completed by end of year

26 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Barmouth Bridge. Photo by Hefin Owen from Wales is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

A £30 million restoration project on the historic Barmouth Viaduct is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Work on the bridge got underway two years ago after engineers confirmed the structure was rotting from the inside out.

Network Rail will close the viaduct for up to thirteen weeks this Autumn, so that it can continue a like-for-like restoration.

Aberystwyth & Welsh Coast Railway

The Grade II* listed single-track wooden bridge was built by the Aberystwyth & Welsh Coast Railway in the 1860s and crosses the Afon Mawddach estuary near Barmouth.

At 820 metres, it is the longest timber viaduct in Wales and one of the oldest in regular use in Britain and is one of just nine timber bridges maintained by Network Rail.

The viaduct was converted into a swing bridge in the early 1900s, but the mechanism has not been functional since it was closed in the 1980s.

The swing span and mechanical equipment are being retained as part of the restoration project but purely for aesthetic reason as part of an agreement with Cadw.

Due to the structure’s listing, Network Rail and its main contractor Alun Griffiths are attempting to maintain the viaduct’s appearance by replacing the timber and metallic elements on a like-for-like basis.

Other elements are also being retained or added for heritage reasons. These include hundreds of “fake rivets” that have been added to the structure to match the bridge’s “original identity”.

During the first two phases work focused largely on replacing and repairing the decayed timber elements of the bridge.

All main rail supporting timber has also been replaced as has the walkway decking.

Metal sections

The railway over the viaduct will be closed from Saturday 2 September to Friday 24 November as engineers work to refurbish the metal sections of the bridge.

Network Rail teams are planning to renew the tracks near to Barmouth Toll House, on the northern end of the viaduct at the end of November but these dates haven’t yet been confirmed.

Transport for Wales expects to operate a combination of bus replacements and train services along the Cambrian Coast line during the closures.

The footpath over the viaduct will also be closed from Saturday 2 September to Friday 24 November, so that engineers have full access while they carry out the restoration.

The final phase of work focuses on restoring the metal elements of the bridge and preparation work has already started with teams currently grit-blasting the steel caissons (the large steel cylinders that support the metal parts of the bridge), ready for painting.

Nick Millington, interim route director for Network Rail Wales & Borders said: “We are excited to begin work on the final phase of restoring this iconic viaduct. There is no other like it in Britain, so we have meticulously and carefully brought this structure back to life so it can serve passengers for future generations.

“We would like to thank the local community for their support and patience while we have and continue to safely carry out this project. We know that there is never a perfect time to close the railway, but we are happy that we have managed to do so in the least disruptive way – for the community and the tourism that means so much to Barmouth.”

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