I first wrote about the Forthside Bridge in Stirling in Stirling, when I thought it was impressive.
But on my second visit to the City, I realise that practically, it isn’t as good as you’d expect.
It’s biggest problem, is that it was not properly integrated with the station, the main road through the city and the shopping centre.
I was staying on the wrong side of the tracks and to get to my train, I needed to cross the bridge, enter the station and then walk back across the tracks on another bridge.
In a sensible station design the bridge in the station would lead to a second ticket gate on the other side. One guy told me, it used to and he thought about buying a flat on the other side, until the ticket gate was removed.
- When I arrived on Friday night, I went to the Shopping Centre to buy a jumper at the Marks and Spencer there! It closed at 18:00. On a Frioday night! Ridiculous!
- On Saturday, I went to Pizza Express at about 21:00. Staff probably outnumbered the patrons.
- It was certainly a lot busier on the other side of the tracks.
So was one guy about eighteen right, when he said the bridge was all bullshit.
I’m nominating the Forthside Bridge in Stirling as a design crime.
But now the line is closed for electrification work, I thought it would be an appropriate time to do it, taking photographs as I walked.
To cross all the bridges, I was constantly doubling back on myself, using a route of.
- West on Selborne Road.
- Right onto Vernon Road
- Left onto Walthamstow High Street
- Right onto Palmerston Road
- Left onto Northcote Road
- Right onto Pretoria Avenue
- Right onto Warner Road and back to Northcote Road
- Left onto Palmerston Road
- Left onto Walpole Road, Suffolk Park Road and The Links
- Right onto Pretoria Road
- Left onto Forest Road
After a short detour to look at the bridge on Blackhorse Road, I arrived at the station, where I took a bus alongside of the GOBlin to Tottenham Hale station.
This Google Map shows Walthamstow Central and Blackhorse Road stations, and the portion of the GOBlin in the area.
Note in both the photographs and the map.
- There are eleven bridges including those at Blackhorse Road and Selborne Road.
- Most seem to be in good condition, with Palmerston Road having been recently replaced and others looking as if they have been thoroughly refurbished.
- Only Suffolk Park Road and Stoneydown Avenue Bridges have restrictions on access.
- It would appear that the track going towards Blackhorse Road has been lifted and laying of new track has started at that end.
- There does appear to be some new sheet piling to stabilise the cutting.
- There is ample space on both sides of this section of the line to erect the masts and gantries for the overhead wires.
- I wonder what William Morris would think of the bridge designs.
- I can’t find any information on whether more work needs to be done on the bridge at Suffolk Park Road, except a mention of new public art from 2015.
So in this section at least, it doesn’t appear that there’ll be much problem putting up the overhead wires for the electrification.
This article in Rail Technology entitled J Murphy & Sons to carry out electrification of Gospel Oak-Barking route, was published on September 29th last year.
I reread the article to see if I could find any reference to the Wightman Road bridge, but there is none.
However, I did find this section.
But Glenn Wallis, secretary of Barking-Gospel Oak Line User Group (BGORUG), said at the time: “Our expert rail industry advisers tell us that for Network Rail to have taken three years to complete GRIP 3 [completed in March this year] indicates that they have not exactly been throwing resources at the job.
“The likelihood of Network Rail completing electrification of the line by mid-2017 is now said to be improbable.”
That looks to me like Network Rail didn’t get all their ducks in a row on this job.
Searching for Wightman Road bridge on the Internet led me to this article on Harringay Online, which is entitled Wightman Road Closure – What Will it Mean? The article was published on December 17th last year. This is said.
Whilst this work has been on the cards for a number of years, its programming to start in Spring 2016 has been driven both by the serendipitous coinciding of the signing off of the nearly £3M budget (from TfL and Network Rail) and the planned electrification works of the Gospel to Barking Oak line.
I find it interesting that in endless articles written about the electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line, the reconstruction of this important road bridge is not mentioned once. This is especially surprising, as bridge reconstructions in Palmerston Road in Walthamstow and Upper Holloway, have been extensively reported.
There was also the major reconstruction of the railway bridge at South Tottenham in December 2014, which I wrote about in VolkerFitzpatrick Are Having A Christmas Party At South Tottenham.
The Palmerston Road bridge was rebuilt in 2014, but it doesn’t appear that any plans to rebuild the Wightman Road bridge surfaced until December 2015.
I think that any major bridge reconstruction would normally be done before the electrification work, as the masts, gantries and possibly wires, would get in the way of the heavy lifts needed for bridge replacement. Also, a sturdy bridge is a convenient place on which to mount the overhead wires.
So it looks like some seriously bad planning to me, that this bridge wasn’t replaced before the electrification started!
The only feasible alternative, is that because of a particular problem, the bridge replacement and the electrification need to be done at the same time.
But if that was the case, then you’d think that the bridge replacement would take place after the complete closure of the line on September 24th, 2016.
But as I said in Wightman Road Bridge Is Falling Down, the bridge should be fully open in September 2016.
Or was the rebuilding of the bridge, just forgotten?
I went to IKEA this morning on a 341 bus (As one does?) and the area around Harringay Green Lanes station.was locked solid.
A quick check on the Internetfrom my phone, told me that Wightman Road is closed.
This Google Map shows the area between Harringay Green Lanes station and Harringay station.
If you follow the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBlin) westward from Harringay Green Lanes station, you come to the important bridge where the East Coast Main Line goes over the GOBlin. To the East of this bridge is a road bridge that takes Wightman Road, which is a major route numbered B138 over the railway.
This would appear to be the bridge that is causing the trouble.
I can only find one authorative document on the web and that is this page on the Haringey Council web site, which is entitled Bridge Reconstruction Work in Wightman Road. This is said.
Work is under way to replace the defective bridge over the railway lines on Wightman Road. The bridge is showing signs of severe deterioration. Network Rail are carrying out the work to coincide with the closure of the Gospel Oak-Barking line, which is undergoing electrification. Both projects are being carried out at the same time to help minimise transport disruption.
The main construction work will run from March to September 2016. While every effort will be made to minimize disruption to traffic, there will be a period when complete road closure will be unavoidable. A temporary footbridge will be put in place to provide access for pedestrians and cyclists while the work is in progress.
Incidentally,. I’ve not heard anything on the news or seen anything in the papers. When I checked a few minutes ago, there was nothing I could find on the Transport for London or Network Rail web sites.
So is this another case of Network Rail not giving the truth about bad problems in the hope they’ll not be spotted?
Or do they think that informing the general public is not important?
These are some pictures, I took at a visit to the bridge on a quiet Sunday morning.
There’s certainly more useful infrormation at the bridge site, than on the web.
One notice labelled Wightman Road Overbridge says this.
- What: The existing Wightman Road Overbridge is to be demolished to bridge abutments to enable a complete bridge reconstruction.
- When: The construction phase is due to start in March 2016 and run until September 2016.
- Installation of scaffold walkway and access platform planned for March 2016.
- Diversion of services and removal of road surface are planned for April 2016 & May 2016.
- Removal of existing highway and bridge is planned for June & July 2016.
- Installation of new bridge deck planned for July 2016.
- Reinstatement of the highway, VRS and services is planned for July & August 2016.
- Why: The Wightman Road Overbridge is now at the end of its design life.In 2005 the structure was assessed and it was decided to renew the life-expired structure to modern-day standards.
A second notice says this.
- Improved Road Profile: This will make it safer for road traffic, pedestrians and especially cyclists.
- Lifespan of New Bridge: An increased design lifespan of 125 years with the first 25 years maintenance free.
- Save Taxpayer Money: Completing works within GOB blockade.
- Less Energy Use And Pollution: Raising the bridge height to allow for electrification of the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.
- Save Disruption: Other groundworks being completed by LBHC in conjunction with the road closure.
The pictures show that good progress appears to be being made. It would appear that services are being diverted, but that the original road surface is still in place. There were also notices prominently displayed saying that on the weekends of the 25th June and 2nd July the pedestrian walkway would be closed, as a crane would be working. Could this be when the old bridge is lifted out and the new one is lifted in?
I do wonder, if the urgent need to replace this bridge might explain the progress on the GOBlin electrification. Network Rail and Murphys seemed to have had a simple plan, which was proceeding in the early months of 2016. Then they found they needed a six month closure of the railway to replace the Wightman Road bridge and that blew a big hole right through everything.
But that doesn’t explain, why TfL and Network Rail haven’t disclosed the detailed truth to the people of North London!
At least when they’ve replaced the bridge, they’ll have a strong structure that they could use to support the overhead wires.
In the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, there was an article entitled Turning South London Orange.
This Google Map shows the station, the river and the South Bank.
Just to look at this map, shows that the scheme has potential.
- I estimate that the distance is probably about five hundred metres.
- The walkway would also give access to the Thames Clippers at Chelsea Harbour Pier.
- The walkway would give better walking routes in the area and across the river.
Unfortunately, the design of the station is possibly not one, that could accept passengers walking in and out at track level, so without a lot of work at the station, passengers might have to climb down and up to get between the walkway and the platforms.
Battersea Railway Bridge is also a Listed structure and it may be difficult to add a walkway.
These pictures show the station and the bridge.
However, it would appear that help is at hand. There are plans for a new footbride called the Diamond Jubilee Footbridge, which will be directly upstream of the railway bridge. This page from the Diamond Jubilee Footbridge web site has a picture and the reasons, why it should be built.
Incidentally, there used to be a Battersea station on the South bank of the River, in the area of Battersea High Street.
This Google Map shows the area.
Although, it looks like the station, which was destroyed in 1940s by German bombing, could be rebuilt, I feel that the Diamond Jubilee Footbridge, is a much better way to spend the money.
For comparison, this is Google Map of the station and the bridge and tunnel to the East.
Note the Victoria Road Bridge and the meting of several roads over the Crouch Hill Tunnel.
I think you can make the following observations.
- There is quite a large green margin to each side of the rail line. This surely should make design of the overhead wires and the various support services like power supplies and control gear easier.
- The Victoria Road Bridge appears to be in good condition and I suspect the arches are large enough to accommodate the overhead wires.
- Is the Crouch Hill Tunnel large enough?
- The bridge at Crouch Hill station appears to be a tight fit and I suspect, the track will need to be lowered to allow space for the overhead wires.
- The current platforms at the station are probably not long enough for four-car trains, but note that there are unused sections of the platforms that could be brought back into use.
- In the picture showing the Victoria Rosad Bridge, you can just see one of the piles at the end of the unused platform extension.
In common with much of the line, the infrastructure seems generally to be in good condition.
I think the updating and electrification of Crouch Hill station will be very typical of other stations on the line.
If you read Rolt’s biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, you get the impression that the engineer was not a totally serious man without any sense of whimsy or humour.
A few weeks ago I read something about his last design, the unique Three Bridges, which arranges a road above a canal, above a railway. So I just had to visit.
Unfortunately, you can’t take photographs from the railway, but you almost get the impression, that Brunel intended to leave behind something by which he would be remembered. This Google Map shows the layout.
The railway is the freight only Brentford Branch Line.
On my trip to Scotland, I spent two nights in the Premier Inn in Stirling, which unlike many budget hotels is close to the station. Access between Stirling station and the hotel was over the impressive Forthside bridge.
As Stirling has frequent trains to both Edinburgh and Glasgow and myriad places in between, the city could be an convenient place to stay depending on where you want to visit.