FLOW bridge unveiling, via Network Rail

Shropshire’s prototype footbridge enables safe ‘FLOW’ over crossing

Network Rail has unveiled the latest addition to its innovative infrastructure designs, the eye-catching ‘FLOW’ bridge in a Shropshire village, representing a low carbon, lightweight and affordable safety solution for the area.

Designed and funded by Network Rail’s Research and Development (R&D) team, alongside leading industry specialists, this new bridge has been birthed with the purpose of providing passengers with a faster and more sustainable method of traversing over tracks. The beauty of this design is that it can be an affordable option to be used in further stations across the UK as foot crossings continue to close.

FLOW stands for the fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP), coming at a low cost with an optimised and striking modular design. The first location to benefit from this prototype is a rural crossing, just north of Craven Arms, in the Shropshire hills, being opened for public viewing at a community event this past Friday 27th January.

The FLOW bridge is replacing an extremely high-risk level crossing that has been closed for a number of years, after it was deemed unfit for use. The major safety concern for this old bridge was the positioning of the loop, which prevented pedestrians from having clear visibility of oncoming trains.

Nick Millington, interim route director at Network Rail Wales and Borders said:

“We want to close as many dangerous level crossings as possible, and this new footbridge shows it can be done while saving tax-payers money and without the need to disrupt passengers' journeys during installation.

“I’d like to thank everyone who contributed their time and effort to this innovative project.

“This prototype has the potential to transform railway crossings, making them safer, more affordable and fit for the future.”

Coming in at 21m in length, the new bridge has a contemporary, money saving design, costing around 40% less than similar, traditional structures. Removing the need for use of concrete for the foundations, the carbon footprint has been significantly reduced, cutting the weight of the structure to half of that of a traditional steel bridge, resulting in lower transportation and installation costs.

Due to the modular design, construction of the infrastructure was predominantly conducted off site, meaning that the installation process could take place without unnecessary disruptions to passenger services.

The bridge itself is also equipped with technological marvels such as a real-time structural health monitoring system (SHM), recording its performance, whilst allowing future improvements to be implemented for its design.

Andy Cross, programme manager at Network Rail Wales and Borders, played a key role in designing the bridge.

“The flow bridge was designed, first and foremost, as a safety solution but our teams have also gone above and beyond to create a quicker and more sustainable option for the future of the railway”, Andy said.

"Its versatile design means we have already started looking at fully accessible versions, with lifts and ramps, for other locations where that would be a suitable option.”

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