Cracks in viaduct close important rail artery

The main railway line between Oxford and Didcot - acritically important national artery - will remain closed until June 10, after a viaduct over the River Thames became unsafe to use. 

The sudden closure (from Monday April 3) of the key passenger and freight line was due to “significant, rapid deterioration” of Nuneham viaduct, which carries the railway over the river Thames between Culham and Radley stations, east of Abingdon. 

One span of the early 20th century structure has visibly tipped towards the river as the southern abutment has moved and tilted, with large cracks appearing in the brickwork. 

An engineer told RAIL that cracks in the structure are “so large you could put your whole arm through”. 

The closure means around 100 Great Western Railway and CrossCountry passenger services a day are being cancelled, and up to 40 daily freight trains are being diverted. The impact is being felt as far afield as Bournemouth and Scotland.

The bridge abutment on the southern bank of the Thames will be completely rebuilt before trains can cross it again. 25-metre-deep steel piles are being driven into the clay beneath the river. 

Network Rail spokeswoman Nicky Hughes said: “We have been monitoring it for some weeks, picking up some movement. That movement has exaggerated, and it is not safe for us to put passenger or freight trains over it.” 

An attempt to halt the structural movement over the last weekend in March was unsuccessful. 

Read this article in full in RAIL issue 981 here

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