By 3D Laser Mapping

Railway bridge suffers partial collapse over the Midland Main line at Barrow on Soar- questions asked about inspections

Published: 13th August 2016

Fort William-Mallaig line closed due to landslide

The road over rail bridge at Grove Lane near Barrow Upon Soar just south of Loughborough, collapsed overnight on 1 August blocking the Midland Main Line (MML) the next day causing serious disruption to East Midlands Trains’ services.

East Midlands Trains ran buses between Loughborough, East Midlands Parkway and Leicester for a while after the collapse but normal services resumed a couple of days later apart from a few late evening trains.

Lucky dip?

Paul McKeown for Network Rail said: “Our team was carrying out investigation work following reports of dips in the road at Grove Lane bridge when the parapet wall partially collapsed. Our engineers have worked around the clock to make the area safe, remove debris and repair the tracks below.

“A full investigation is underway into the cause of the collapse. We are working on plans to repair the bridge and will provide an update to the local community once we have a robust timeline for this work.”

Jake Kelly, Managing Director for East Midlands Trains, said: "We would firstly like to thank our customers for their patience and Network Rail for working around the clock to ensure we could start running train services again.

Are bridges inspected?

The short answer is yes and on a regular schedule as with all Network Rail structures. This area, as a former mining location, is well known for subsidence and a Network Rail team was investigating the bridge structure at the time part of it collapsed onto the railway below at 1155pm. There were no injuries to those working on site, members of the public or passengers as a result of the incident and no trains were under the bridge at the time.

A passenger train passed under the bridge about 10 minutes before the collapse and some rubble fell onto the track. The contractors who were there at the time immediately passed on details of the incident preventing any trains from passing under the bridge.

As with many bridges, it carried water services, this location on behalf of Severn Trent Water and there was some disruption to water supplies for a few hours. A road diversion was also put in place immediately after the incident. Contrary to media headlines, the bridge did not collapse but it was the parapet wall that partially collapsed onto the railway.

3D Laser Mapping commented:

Could the recent collapse of Barrow upon Soar’s railway bridge have been avoided by employing regular bridge monitoring? The answer to this is above, there is a regular schedule of monitoring but according to Dr. Chris Cox, senior engineer at 3D Laser Mapping, he suggested that perhaps more mobile monitoring in the rail industry could be used.

“With many of today’s bridge designs dating back to the Victorian era, there has never been a greater need to survey and monitor these decaying structures and to schedule regular, necessary maintenance to prevent such costly and disruptive events. Many local residents spoke of assessments being carried out on the bridge in Barrow upon Soar but, as Dr. Cox points out, basic visual inspections are often not enough.

“They can be unreliable and do not reveal the true extent of the deterioration. Visible cracks often occur in structures and are usually the first sign of a greater problem. Regular monitoring, incorporating the use of an accurate LiDAR system, ensures that any potential issues can be detected early enough to avoid the safety and cost implications involved in a collapse.

“It’s terrible that an incident like this has occurred but it does open up discussion and acts as a reality check that changes need to be made.”

Network Rail has a massive task monitoring its infrastructure with 20,000 miles of track and 40,000 bridges and viaducts to keep safe. This bridge collapse is in the news because such an incident is very rare.

Landslip shuts Mallaig line

The scenic route between Fort William and Mallaig was closed on Aug 12 due to a landslide for the weekend near Lochailort. Engineers cleared over 100 tonnes of stone and mud from 70metres of track after the mountainside above the railway gave way on Thursday evening. This affected services between Glasgow Queen Street and Mallaig which only ran to Fort William.

A replacement bus service carried passengers between Fort William and Mallaig. A ScotRail Alliance spokesman said: “Our team has been on site since Thursday assessing the damage and making repairs. We are working to get the line open as soon as possible, but significant repairs will be needed to fix the damage caused to both the railway and slope above.

But the buses being used by rail passengers were also affected by landslides which blocked local roads in the area bringing longer journey times.

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