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Volunteers save Severn Valley Railway £40k in Victoria Bridge repair project (15th March 2013)

Volunteers save Severn Valley Railway £40k in Victoria Bridge repair project

WORKING through some of the rawest days of the winter, in sub-zero temperatures and in snow, a team of volunteers has saved the Severn Valley Railway around £40,000 by taking on specialist repair work on the line’s iconic Victoria Bridge, instead of tendering the work out to contractors.

It is often difficult to put a value on the work which the Severn Valley Railway’s many hundreds of volunteers undertake on a vast variety of tasks all year round – but when the volunteer track gang learned that it would cost £40,000 to buy in labour and materials to replace the rotted framework which keeps the ballast in place on the 1861-built cast-iron bridge, they decided to do the work themselves.

Now, after a little design ingenuity and just over a month of honest hard labour, the volunteer track gang – members of the Railway’s Permanent Way Department – have replaced the rotted oak framework with welded steel mesh panels – a solution which should last for 25 years, and which has saved the railway hefty expense. 

“It’s been a fantastic effort by the volunteers which has saved us a considerable amount of money” said an upbeat Chris Bond, SVR Infrastructure Manager.

“Just as on other parts of the line, the track across Victoria Bridge at Arley has to sit on a ballast base – but the timber framework which prevents the ballast from being disturbed and spilling off the bridge and into the River Severn, was almost life expired, and for some time we have been operating trains over the bridge to a 5mph speed restriction, instead of the usual 15mph, as a precaution.”

Under the direction of volunteer Project Leader Keith Brown from Abberley who designed the steel mesh panels, sourced the material and then helped install them, the small gang of volunteers - generally six or seven at a time – have worked on the bridge every day since early February, replacing some 56 two-inch thick timber planks. The project was completed several days ahead of schedule. 

Steel ‘tie rods’ have been fitted to the mesh facings either side of the track to enhance the integrity of what are in effect metal ‘cages’ retaining the ballast. To maintain the ‘period’ appearance of the track however and to comply with planning requirements, the steel mesh will be fitted with timber facings. The SVR had to obtain planning approval for the work; Victoria Bridge is a Grade 2 listed structure.