Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways

February 20th 2008

Porthmadog cross town link construction update

These can usefully be described in sections, from the north to south ends of the contract now being worked on by Welsh Highland Railway Construction Ltd civil contractor Carillion.

1. Pen y Mount to the Cambrian Crossing.

Civil engineering work should be finished by the end of February, and the realigned public footpath will then be reopened. Volunteers from WHR (Porthmadog) will then lay track during March.

2. Cambrian Crossing to Snowdon Mill.

The contractor's work is now close to finished on this section. Volunteers will lay track here in May.

3. Snowdon Street level crossing area

This is the first of the two sections which will be laid in special tramway section rail within the road surface, work which is part of the Carillion contract. Civil engineering and track are expected to be completed by April.

4. Snowdon Street to Britannia Bridge

This stretch running along the side of the car park and behind Wilkinson's hardware shop includes three sections where making the new trackbed involves protection work for the outfall sewer that runs beneath it. We expect the contractor to complete and hand over this section during April, and volunteers will lay the track in May.

5. Britannia Bridge

In late January, piles were driven into the riverbank adjacent to Britannia Bridge at a point where the adjacent training wall had collapsed in 2007. The initial trial was successful, with piles penetrating the underlying rock by 1.5 to 2 metres in depth, and with the method proven, the necessary piling work was then completed. Information obtained from the pile test was essential to inform the design process. Consulting engineers Arup have now completed the detailed design for the training wall/abutment that will use these piles. The steel piles will be trimmed to level and a capping beam will be cast to encase the top. The front face of the piles will be clad in masonry. The triangular bridge widening span taking the WHR on to the bridge will be supported by three pre-cast concrete beams, bearing on the piled wall at one end and on a pillar built up on the existing bridge abutment on the other. The railway centreline does not pass over the widened span, which is largely to take the footway.

Completion of work at this site will be followed by laying the embedded track in the road across Britannia Bridge and on towards Harbour Station. This is likely to be the contractor's final task, and is expected in May or June. We are working to ensure all our work on the bridge, including installation of the tracks, is finished well before the main Summer holiday season.

6. Cob Records storage building

Alterations are currently being made to this building, which stands behind Harbour Station. As a mitigation measure it is being extended at the end away from the road, and then shortened at the end facing the road, where additional clearance is required. When complete there will be a footway adjacent to the carriageway (leading to the Cob footpath), iron railings, then the railway, followed by a 2m wide footpath/platform extension, and finally the new gable wall of the building. The work on the building should be finished around the end of March.

7. Harbour Station

Plans for adaptation of Harbour Station to suit WHR as well as FR services involve extension of a section of the Cob on the seaward side. Since the Transport and Works Order was made, authorising rebuilding of the WHR, the site has been brought within the Lleyn and Sarnau Special Area of Conservation, and thus has an enhanced protected status. We had therefore to apply for a Marine Construction Licence under the Food & Environment Protection Act. Although the Licence has now been granted we have not been able to carry out the Cob widening in Winter 2007-8 as first planned while waiting a decision. This pushes the programme for alterations at Harbour into Winter 2008-9, which was going to be the period for completion of these works ahead of the WHR opening at Easter 2009. So the task ahead at Harbour is a challenge, but not impossible by any means. It has been decided that a temporary connection will be made in the meantime between the railways, with a point connection added to the existing FR platform line, and connected to the Cross-Town Link once the rails are laid across Britannia Bridge. The temporary connection will be installed in March, and contract work will include a first short section of WHR platform in front of Spooner's Bar. The connection will give a very useful capacity for movements of construction and test trains between the FR and WHR much earlier than first intended.

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