The completion of the £30 million restoration of the iconic Barmouth Viaduct in north Wales has been celebrated after a painstaking four-year programme of work to carefully restore the 156-year-old, grade II* listed structure, back to its former glory and protect it for generations to come.
Network Rail, representatives of the community, rail industry partners and the local council joined Wales Office minister Fay Jones for the unveiling of a plaque to mark the milestone.
The Cambrian line fully reopened to train services on Saturday 2 December after teams from Network Rail and Griffiths worked seven days a week during a 13-week closure to allow the final stages of the restoration to be safely completed.
Originally constructed by the Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway in 1867, the Grade II* listed 770m structure is the longest viaduct in Wales and the longest wooden railway bridge in Britain.
When restoration began in 2020, Network Rail engineers found the 156-year-old bridge to be in a much worse condition than originally anticipated. Many of the timber elements had decayed significantly and a large portion of the metallic elements had corroded.
The programme was planned to make sure it wouldn’t threaten the structure’s industrial heritage, with components replaced on a ‘like for like’ basis to retain its majestic appearance. Realising the impact that a long-term closure of the line would have on the community, the work was purposely spread over several years with four shorter closures.
This autumn, after strengthening the north abutments and upgrading additional timber elements, the team focused on the metallic structure, successfully completing the intricate task of moving two 160-tonne spans. With one newly fabricated span weighing the same as a blue whale, teams used a total of 44 jacks – ranging from 20 to 100 tonnes capacity – as well as six rail trailers to carry out the technical move.
Once the restoration work was close to completion, work began to renew 297m of track near the toll house on the northern side and replace 1,100m3 of ballast (track stone) to ensure the safety of services crossing the viaduct over the Afon Mawddach.
The viaduct is now fully operational and members of the public can once again walk across it to enjoy the breathtakingly beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
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