Network Rail awarded for preserving its railway heritage

Network Rail has been awarded a National Railway Heritage award for its work on the refurbishment of the South Esk viaduct at Montrose.

In the 40th anniversary celebration of the National Railway Heritage awards held in London, the prize was presented to Network Rail and contractor, Taziker Industrial by HRH the Princess Royal.

South Esk viaduct was completed in 1883 and was one of last major bridges built in wrought iron using lattice girders – a Victorian design standard – in the UK. It was built by railway engineer William Arrol who was responsible for the construction of many iconic bridges including the Tay and Forth Bridges.

Over a 16-month period, the 16 span (section), 440 metre, grade B listed structure was

grit blasted, cleaned, repaired and repainted section by section in a project which completed in late 2018.

Preservation work on the bridge also included retaining shrapnel marks and bullet holes on the structure consistent with a bombing and a strafing attack by the Luftwaffe during World War 2.

A bespoke scaffold system and walkway was put in place to enable the Network Rail project team and specialist contractor Taziker Industrial to access the structure and deliver the work safely.

The viaduct was also ‘encapsulated’ to provide the right working environment in the exposed location as well as to stop any contaminants from leaking into the air and river below – particularly during grit blasting and painting.

Jeremy Spence, Network Rail’s programme manager, said: “We are delighted that our work on this structure has been acknowledged in this way.

“We take seriously our responsibility to maintain and preserve these historic structures, not just for the safe and efficient operation of the railway, but also how they look in their setting for those travelling on the railway or visitors to the area enjoying the beautiful views.

“The viaduct sits in a stunning location and the experience of working there over the duration of the project was both exciting and challenging. Getting the chance to see the viaduct up close gives you great respect for those who built this structure more than a century ago and we hope that our work has done justice to the legacy that we have been left by the Victorian railway pioneers.”

The steel work on the bridge was painted ‘Window Grey’ to match the original colour of the listed structure using a three-coat system which protects the existing and new metal work from corrosion and provides a high quality aesthetic finish. The refurbishment of the viaduct ensures that it will not need any significant maintenance for around 25 years.

As well as the logistical challenges of working at height above a river, the Network Rail team and contractor also have to work within the harsh realities of winter in an exposed coastal location. In practical terms this means that the viaduct can only be encapsulated a section at a time to limit the effects of wind loading on the structure.