Civils and stations

25.10.07

FRP railway bridge is a UK first

The UK rail network's first self-supporting fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) bridge was lifted into position over a railway line at St Austell, Cornwall at the weekend.

The innovative footbridge, which crosses the Paddington to Penzance main line, was simpler and quicker to install than a steel alternative. It is expected to be virtually maintenance free and will not corrode.

Network Rail has been examining the use of FRP in the rail environment for a number of years. In 2004, it commissioned a study by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) which highlighted a range of viable uses covering footbridges, platforms, stairs, walkways and other structures. The main benefits identified were ease of installation, low maintenance and durability.

Network Rail is now taking forward a number of pilot projects to assess the viability of using FRP to replace similar structures across the network as they reach the end of their life. The first to be completed is the St Austell bridge, which was designed by PB, fabricated by Pipex in Plymouth and installed by Edmund Nuttall in the early hours of Sunday 21 October.

The bridge is made up of three sections - two six metre side spans, each weighing two tonnes, and a central 14 metre span weighing only five tonnes. The structure comprises pultruded FRP elements in combination with moulded exterior panels.

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