Bridge update from the Broads Authority

27 Aug 20

The below statement has been issued by the Broads Authority regarding closures and repairs to bridges in the Norfolk and Suffolk area.

Acle Bridge

After several months of work and delays with our contractors due to lockdown, the moorings and path at our Acle Bridge site are now open for use. The toilets, car park and café remain closed, and waste bins are currently being provided. Please note and adhere to the temporary signage and fencing in place at the site. During autumn, we will seed a large area of riverside grass and install more permanent fencing to improve the appearance of the site, until then the site is predominantly open for moorings and basic access to the footpath.

 Acle Bridge moorings with temporary fencing in place. Photo credit: Broads Authority

Reedham & Somerleyton Bridges

These two Victorian Swing Bridges are owned and operated by Network Rail. The summer heat always brings issue to their operational ability when the air temperatures rises to above 26 degrees. As the temperatures rises the cast iron structures expand, jamming the opening mechanism in place. Reedham Swing Bridge is positioned as such that it can be cooled by the prevailing wind/breeze and this swing bridge suffers less through heat expansion. This year Somerleyton air temperature reached 41 degrees. 

Network Rail have carried out extensive maintenance to these structures, new sensors have been fitted to make the operating tolerances less, meaning better opening and closing. Short expansion rails are fitted to allow the track to expand in higher temperatures but still allowing bridge openings. And during the hottest days a full Network Rail Structural Team were brought in to observe the bridges as they expanded so that design aspects can be fitted to counteract this and bring better operational performance. It is hoped that this design work will be completed soon and a scheduled devised to retro fit this to the structures.

Lastly, these old bridges do suffer occasionally from mechanical issues, but these are decreasing as we have been able to negotiate better response times from Network Rail. Although one of the bridge failures was due to ECU boxes (fitted on the track to upgrade the signals system) melting in the summer heat. NR took this issue up with their contractors to rectify.

Closure of the rail bridge at Mutford Lock

Mutford lock is a Broads Authority structure and has been fully operational throughout summer, apart from a days when we undertook repairs to coincide with repair to the Road Bridge.

Oulton Broad Rail Bridge has had structural issues, again this rail swing bridge is operated by Network Rail, Due to a issue with the lowering rams and locking pins being damaged, Network Rail needed to fabricate new parts from scratch as ‘off the shelf’ parts are not available for this bridge. These parts and getting them fixed took a few weeks. Upon having the new parts fitted, NR Engineers found that the bridge did not lock shut in the correct alignment. It is currently operational but NR need 24 hour notice of an opening so the Engineers can be on site to facilitate the opening and closing. This will continue until a fix for the alignment has taken place.

Problems at the Town Bridge in Yarmouth

Haven Bridge is operated and maintained by Norfolk County Council and is a road bridge. At a recent inspection the HSE condemned the electrics and sealed off the control room as the site was unsafe for entry. NCC are instigating a repair, but until it is done the bridge is not being opened by NCC for fear that is could get stuck open and cause road traffic congestion. (the manual closing mechanism is housed in the control room where the condemned electric have been sealed off).In summary we have been plagued with a series of bridge failures and heat related situations. The Broads Authority has open dialogue with the various operators and keeps the pressure on them to find solutions and remedies to ensure bridge operations are maintained. Budget restrictions, C19 mitigations and an aging infrastructure have all played a part.We share the frustrations many of the boating community have due to inoperable bridges and through open dialogue and collaboration we are slowly bringing changes, but these structures are not the Broads Authority’s responsibility and getting 3rd party organisations to recognise their importance and to prioritise expenditure is ongoing.

If you have any queries regarding bridges in the Norfolk and Suffolk area, please visit the Broads Authority website. Alternatively, if you are a member of the RYA and require further assistance, please email the Cruising team