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Network Rail bridge hits delays

A failure to anticipate the need to bolster a road on the approach to a Network Rail bridge project has led to delays and caused massive disruption to one of the country’s largest business estates.

Work to replace the Potash road bridge over the Great Western Main Line near the A34 Milton Interchange began on 18 October 2010 and was due to be completed in January.

Rail infrastructure owner and operator Network Rail now says it will need until July to complete the work on the asset − which is used to access Milton Park near Abingdon in Oxfordshire − a delay that has been branded “wholly unacceptable” by the park’s owners.

The plan involves bolstering the bridge to enable the removal of its 7.5t weight restriction, opening up access to the park. It is jointly funded by Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council.

The frame of the new bridge structure was put in place in December, but insufficient site investigation meant that it was later discovered by Network Rail contractor Barhale that the embankments for the approach roads either side of the road are in “much worse condition than expected”.

“Significant earthwork” is now needed to strengthen the roads, including installing new piles to support the road for the new unrestricted weight traffic.

“We are lobbying Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council to point out that such a delay is wholly unacceptable”

MEPC, park owner

In addition, sources close to the project told NCE that the embankments had been in place for 100 years and that the embankments either side of the bridge abutments had settled, which had caused a discrepancy in the levels of the approach road and new bridge. The contractor will also have to build up the approach roads to meet the new bridge in its work.

Network Rail said this winter’s extreme weather caused some delays to the work schedule, with Barhale unable to pour concrete in temperatures which dipped as low as -15ºC.

Park owner MEPC said it was “very disappointed and surprised” to learn of the delay, which is said was as a result of “unforeseen complications” with the embankment work.

“We are lobbying Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council to point out that such a delay is wholly unacceptable and appears to totally dismiss any appreciation of the inconvenience the delay will cause to Milton Park’s occupiers,” it said.

A Network Rail spokesman said the firm apologised “wholeheartedly” for the disruption to journeys. Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for growth and infrastructure Ian Hudspeth said it and Network Rail and the Highway Agency were looking to decrease traffic delays while the work continues.

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