NPX awarded old rail bridges contract

Highways England has awarded a 10 year contract to keep an eye on old disused railway bridges.

NPX, which is a joint venture between utilities contractor Network Plus and bridges specialist Xelad, has been given the contract for Historical Railways Examination contract in the east region.

Highways England has responsibility for managing the Department for Transport’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), a collection of more than 3,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts that are no longer part of the operating rail network.

From April 2021 until 2031, NPX will cover sites from Durham and Yorkshire through to the West Midlands, periodically inspecting hundreds of disused rail bridges and tunnels that form part of the Historical Railway Estate.

The contract scope will see NPX conduct nearly 600 visual and detailed structures examinations a year. It will monitor at-risk structures and provide a 24 hour response service for any bridge strikes or emergencies.

There is also environmental scope to the works, ecology studies to safeguard bats and other protected species, maintaining gates, fences and access points, and clearing vegetation and debris to facilitate examinations.

Network Plus was previously known as T&K Gallagher. Xelad was set up in 2003 as Bridgezone, specialising in inspecting British Rail bridges for scour.

Paul Capener, Xelad commercial director, said: “We’ll utilise our decades of asset management experience on historical structures. The integration of a smart, digital focused service will enhance safety, quality and efficiency of delivery”.

As previously reported, the HRE Group, an alliance of engineers, cycling campaigners and greenway developers, has accused Highways England of being too quick to fill in or demolish disused rail structures, avoiding scrutiny of the normal planning processes by using permitted development powers. The HRE Group wrote to transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris last month to raise concerns about Highways England’s approach to managing the Historical Railways Estate.

managing the Historical Railways Estate.