Balustrade wall, Bath

Network Rail protect both railway safety and heritage in Bath

Network Rail are protecting both the railway and history with their essential safety work to the low balustrade wall at Sydney Gardens in Bath, including the installation of railings to prevent trespassers gaining access to the track.

The iconic wall designed by esteemed engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel back in the 19th century, as a feature for the railway. Network Rail wanted to find a solution that protected the railway whilst not infringing on the historical integrity and significance of the structure.

Historic England therefore worked in conjunction with Network Rail to ensure that the works improved the safety of the railway whilst also preserving the character and aesthetic of the balustrade wall.

Colin Field, Network Rail’s town planning and heritage manager said: “We’re pleased that we’ve been able to design and complete a solution that enhances the safety of the railway line and protects visitors to the Gardens, while maintaining the historic architecture of Brunel’s balustrade wall.

“We’ve worked in close partnership with the council’s conservation officers and Historic England to realise this work, which included vegetation removal to improve the views across the park and keep passing trains safe from leaves and branches. Brunel intended for the railway to become a feature within the Gardens in its own right, and we’ve worked to respect that aspiration and stay true to his vision.

“Visitors will be able to safely enjoy the sight of trains travelling through the historic Gardens while the railway is protected from any trespassers, which is a win for everybody.”

Network Rail also completed emergency repairs to Brunel’s only remaining cast iron footbridge – they also removed vegetation that had been disturbing the masonry.

Simon Hickman, development advice team leader at Historic England said: “Brunel designed the Great Western Railway as it bisects Sydney Gardens as a place where the public could appreciate and enjoy the passage of his trains. We’re delighted to have worked with Network Rail designing a safe, but sympathetic, means of allowing Brunel’s vision to continue.”

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