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Network Rail to build bridge with innovative composite materials

16 September 2020

Network Rail has teamed up with the National Composites Centre (NCC) to design and build a footbridge made from composites.

The concept footbridge, called “Futura” and designed by Marks Barfield Architects and consulting group COWI, is being developed into a prototype to demonstrate the benefits of using composites within railway stations for both new-build and replacement structures.

The footbridge demonstrator project will adopt modern methods of construction and platform architecture through a standardised design and set of adaptable components created in factories with digital controls.

The NCC said the bridge would also enable innovation that can be transferred to the wider transport infrastructure and supply-chain. The project will target key metrics of reduced cost and reduced greenhouse gas emission in line with Construction 2025.

Richard Oldfield, chief executive of the NCC, said: “We’re delighted to be working on this ground-breaking project with Network Rail, and that they have joined us as a member. There is clear alignment between the long-term strategic goals of the two organisations – namely to accelerate the adoption of composites in construction and to support the UK’s supply chain development to achieve the government’s Construction 2025 strategy.”

“Composites offer huge benefits to construction, not least in their ability to be built using modern methods, as well as the cost-effective nature of their construction and installation. They are a more sustainable solution, which will contribute to net-zero targets across the industry, and are an intrinsically safer and more aesthetically pleasing option.”

Ian Grimes, principal engineer from Network Rail added: “Our main focus is on putting our passengers first and exploring the full potential of composites as an alternative low carbon construction material will enable us to continue doing this.

“The quicker installation and the corrosion resistant nature of composites will mean less disruption and impact on passengers when we’re installing and maintaining our assets.

“This offers further environmental benefits alongside cost savings which can then be reinvested into other parts of the network.”

Comments

That sounds very much like newspeak for what used to be termed unit modular prefabricated construction, as practised by railway companies a hundred and fifty years ago, mostly in cast iron and timber. Interesting to see the rail industry has not moved from the idea that passengers should haul baggage and themselves up flights of stairs in that time.

Making up fancy images does not get away from the fact that what passengers really want is level, step-free, access. And is being delivered almost everywhere but Planet Rail. That’s a proper design challenge. This is just window dressing.

owen jordan, 18 September 2020

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