If fences make the best neighbours, what do bridges do?

June 30, 2021
If fences make the best neighbours, what do bridges do?

There’s an old adage about fences making the best neighbours, and we think, at Raildiary, there’s an element of truth in it. Fences can create a distinction between two gardens, they can mark out boundaries but they are also arguably a symbol of separation, of borders.

“Let's build bridges, not walls.”

Martin Luther King Jr

Bridges, another man-made structure, are conversely seen as a positive thing in construction and metaphorically. We’re told, when we leave a job as adults, not to burn bridges, which is wise. When relationships are fraught, we’re advised to build bridges and there’s numerous songs espousing the virtue of a bridge. Think Simon and Garfunkel and their troubled waters, for example.

In construction terms, bridges have a long history. In the UK alone, we have structures that date back to 1175 (Clattern Bridge near Kingston Upon Thames) and bridges that are world heritage sites (Ironbridge).

At Raildiary, we’ve been fortunate too to work on the Ribblehead Viaduct near Settle and many other projects of architectural merit within the rail construction sector.

What has caught the Raildiary’s team this week too is a new modular bridge design, unveiled by Network Rail.

Let’s explain more.

Network Rail is rightly concerned about passenger health and safety and with the heralding of even faster trains in the form of HS2, footbridges over tracks are vital.

But footbridges are time-consuming to make and their installation can be slowed down due to the manufacturing process - until now, that is.

Currently, there is just one option for non-station footbridges and these are heavy, expensive and dare we say, ugly. They’ve been compared with the grey pylons that pock-mark the countryside but Network Rail plan to change this perception.

Here’s Andy Cross, Network Rail’s Programme Manager:

“We were able to take a different approach. This has allowed us to work with several small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom haven’t worked on railway projects before but have the skills and expertise to bring the concept of a lightweight, low-cost footbridge to life.

“In just 11 months we have developed a prototype bridge that is stunning in design, environmentally friendly and will take days and not weeks to install and thereby causing less disruption for the surrounding community.”

This prototype is manufactured in Warwickshire from FRP (Fibre-Reinforced Polymer), a material already successfully used in the car and aviation industries.

It’s not just Network Rail working in isolation either. We’ve read that there are 8 partners in this bridge project and it even includes smart elements with fibre optic monitoring to measure both use and maintenance needs.

Clearly there may be resistance to change as there was at St Austell when the original footbridge was removed but found new life in Wales. New technology though means that these modular footbridges will last longer, cost less to maintain and benefit children and adults with mobility issues.

Not all progress is good progress but we think, at Raildiary, that these new bridges signal great progress.

Oliver Donohue

Snr Account Manager

Snr Account Manager

Raildiary LinkedIn
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