UK’s First Grade II Listed Plastic Station Footbridge

Published 3rd January 2013

New plastic Dawlish station footbridge opened and immediately listed!

Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris has officially opened the UK’s first Grade II listed plastic footbridge at Dawlish Station. She cut a ribbon across the steps to the new footbridge off the main platform at the seaside station on the south coast of Devon. The footbridge was part of a £1m improvement project which saw the removal of the rusting steel footbridge on 7 October. The new plastic polymer composite footbridge was then installed in mid October 2012. The bridge was officially opened by the local MP on the shortest day of the year.

They said:

Anne Marie Morris said: “I am delighted to officially open the new bridge at Dawlish Railway Station. I know people wanted to see something done about the rusting old bridge and I have been pushing to bring support for their case. I am pleased to say that Dawlish Railway Station now has a bridge that is fit for purpose”

Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s Western Route Managing Director, said:

“The coastal railway line from Exeter to Newton Abbot, part of Network Rail’s Great Western main line network, is noted for its particularly scenic qualities and for being one of the most exposed in the country, constantly battling the effects of coastal erosion and salt spray-induced corrosion.

“Dawlish Station was originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1830 and is grade II listed. Unfortunately the station’s 17.5 metre long covered steel footbridge, reconstructed in 1937, had deteriorated beyond economic repair and any similar form of replacement probably would have met the same fate in due course.

“Its replacement is a lightweight plastic structure weighing only five tonnes, about one third the weight of the old footbridge. We are hoping that it will require considerably less maintenance than the structure it has replaced.”

First Great Western, Regional Manager West of England, Julian Crow said:

“The First Great Western station at Dawlish welcomes almost half a million people a year, and is an instantly recognisable location, appearing in hundreds of holiday and railway photographs over the years. This new footbridge provides essential access for both local travelers and visitors and is sure to stand not only the test of time but also whatever the English weather can throw at it.”

Who designed it?

Designed by consulting engineers Tony Gee and Partners and their sub-consultant Optima Projects, the new footbridge has been constructed using modern advanced materials technology and is the first Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composite bridge installed at a mainline station in the UK and notably the first grade II listed FRP bridge.

The structure aesthetically replicates the character of the original steel structure, but provides a much lighter and more durable solution and is expected to result in considerable through-life cost savings due to reduced maintenance expenditure.

Who installed it?

The structure was installed by main contractor BAM Nuttall and fabricated by Pipex Structural Composites of Plymouth. It mainly uses standard FRP structural profiles, produced by a process known as pultrusion, combined with parapet sandwich panels moulded by film infusion. The stairs at each end of the bridge are also moulded FRP units.

The Dawlish Station footbridge is the second fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) footbridge to be installed on the Western Route. The first was at St Austell in Cornwall in October 2007.

Sea air rusts away!

Plastic was used because the steelwork of the existing footbridge had been badly corroded by the harsh marine weather conditions. The timber decking had rotted and the protective paintwork had disintegrated. This stretch of the railway line also has special signalling to combat the sea water when storms flood the line in spray and huge waves.

The plastic components were supplied by Pipex Ltd, the Plymouth-based structural composites manufacturer, replicating the style of the original steel bridge at the grade 2 listed station.

Network Rail’s engineers considered a number of alternatives, including a complete refurbishment and strengthening scheme using traditional materials, before deciding to completely replace the existing footbridge with a plastic FRP structure.

Rivet counters confused

Not only will the manufactured mouldings replicate the existing style of the original steel bridge - even down to plastic rivet heads - but it will be better able to withstand the harsh marine environment along the Dawlish seafront.

The footbridge will be painted Admiral Gray in keeping with the rest of the station.

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