An engineering challenge to install a bridge within seven days underneath a Gloucestershire railway as part of the multi-million pound Stroudwater Canal restoration project has been completed.
A team of 150 from Network Rail and its contractor Alun Griffiths achieved the feat on behalf of Cotswold Canals Connected while the railway was closed between Christmas and New Year.
The new bridge is part the estimated £23 million of ongoing work to re-open four-miles of canal from Saul Junction to Stonehouse, which will also eventually link to the Thames and Severn Canal and is expected to significantly boost tourism and investment in the district.
Doina Cornell, Stroud District Council leader, said: ‘This is more than just an engineering project; our aim is for the canal restoration to act as a catalyst for social, cultural, economic and environmental transformation.’
The local authority believes a fully restored canal would attract more than £75million-worth of private investment within five years of the end of the project, with boaters and visitors spending more than £5 million annually in the Stroud district.
The Ocean Railway Bridge Project took more than two years of planning, including casting the new bridge sections on site, catching and relocating thousands of fish and draining a 230-metre section of the canal.
Chris Mitford-Slade, Cotswold Canals’ connected project director, said: ‘This was the largest and most complex project on this section of the canal and we would like to thank all of those living in the locality for their support, understanding and tolerance.
‘This project, and the canal restoration, would not have been possible without the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, private donations, fundraising and grants.’
The canal towpath either side of the bridge will remain closed until the end of March 2022. An alternative walking and cycling route is signposted.
Cotswold Canals Connected is a partnership of organisations led by Stroud District Council and the Cotswold Canals Trust.
By Andrew Merrell