The US$5 million project was carried out as the bridge had been closed 30 times in the last decade – and ten times in 2020 alone - for emergency repairs caused by flood water.
Black Bridge, on the Cambrian Line near Machynlleth, now stands one metre taller than before, after Network Rail engineers and contractor AmcoGiffen worked around the clock for six weeks to lift it away from the flood zone of the River Dulas (link opens in new tab). In total, 360 people clocked up more than 32,000 hours to deliver the project, with the line reopening today (28 June).
Engineers opted to lift the 80-tonne bridge manually, rather than using hydraulics, to ensure there was no twisting or buckling of the structure. Eight, 20-tonne chains were used in total and the bridge was raised just 10mm for every 10 metres of chain pulled.
This resulted in more than 12.8km of chain being pulled through the lifting blocks for the lift.
Richard Compton, project manager for Network Rail Wales & Borders, said: “Black Bridge has repeatedly flooded over the years during periods of heavy rainfall, causing regular closures and long delays for passengers.
“We experienced this flooding first-hand during our work, which shows exactly why raising the bridge is so important. Improving the resilience of Black Bridge means we can continue to provide a safe and reliable railway for passengers for many years to come.”
Andy Crowley, operations director Wales & Western at AmcoGiffen, said: “With nine months from concept to completion, we knew from the outset that it was going to be challenging to deliver this scheme in such a short timescale. We also understood the necessity behind the risk being taken.
“Collaboration was crucial from the start and when severe weather hit the early days of the project, we all worked together to recoup the lost time and maintain our schedule.
“It’s important to acknowledge the true team spirit that has been part of this intense scheme from start to finish and we’re delighted to have played our part.”