The Borough Bridge Move

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Last weekend saw a major act of engineering undertaken south of the river – the moving into place of the bridge over Borough High Street which forms part of the track improvements taking place outside London Bridge. This took three days to complete and ultimately required some completion works this weekend as well.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three-day move attracted the presence of most of the major LR contributors at one point or another and the resulting photos (along with some excellent shots by unravelled) are below, as are some comments.

As can hopefully be seen from the pictures below, the bridge itself is an interesting design. It has a lattice design to its southern face, but its close proximity to the existing bridge on the other side (there’s only about 16 inches between the two) means the northern face follows a more traditional riveted panel approach.

Indeed it is not just the existing bridge that the new one is close to. As the photos show, the clearances with surrounding architecture (including the now-decapitated Wheatsheaf) are relatively tight all round, which added to the complexity of the exercise.

The bridge itself was put together above the new viaduct. In the photos below this can be clearly seen – the viaduct is green, the bridge grey. The move effectively involved sliding the bridge out over the viaduct, with its weight being taken up by a heavy transporter as it moved beyond the viaduct’s support, and then lowered into place. Effectively, therefore, the work during the weekend fell into three major categories – removing the existing support infrastructure, sliding it out over the road and then removing the remaining supports and lowering it into place.

Although Sanska were the direct contractor acting to Network Rail, it was actually Dutch firm Mammoet who carried out the heavy lifting (a name that may be familiar to those who keep an eye on the world of naval engineering – it was Mammoet who lifted the Kursk). The road was closed all weekend in order to allow this to take place, with a hired Routemaster kindly put in place by Sanska to act as a viewing platform for those interested in watching the move progress.

The original intention was for the move to begin at about 19:00 on Saturday, after which the bridge would be slid out gradually (progressing at a couple of centimetres a minute) and constantly laser checked for positioning. By about 18:45, however, it had become clear that the move would be delayed. It appeared that Mammoet had some concerns about how smooth the slide would go, and various work took place (including some grind welding). Ultimately the bridge started its slow journey just before 04:00 on Sunday Morning (credit going to Daimler_fan for being the LR author who heroically remained in place until this happened). By Sunday evening it had finally been lowered into place, and work then took place to remove the roadway that had been constructed for the transporter (visible in the picture below) and return the road to an openable state ahead of its Tuesday reopening.

Beyond the move itself, the presence of such a concentration of Network Rail resources allowed some gentle probing about the work going on in the area in general (an act at which Pedantic proved more successful than this author). Most interestingly, there was a final platform layout for London Bridge visible at one point. This seemed to indicate that the platforms are to be straightened out and realigned, which will be a tough task. On the diagram the platforms were given letters not numbers, although this is likely to avoid confusion with the current platform numbering during the construction process.

On the diagram, the platforms were broken down as follows (heading north to south):

A – Cannon St down
B – Cannon St Reversible
C – Cannon St Up

D – Thameslink Down
E – Thameslink Up
F – Charing Cross Down
G – Charing Cross Down

H – Charing Cross Up
I – Charing Cross Up

Then six terminating platforms.

Hopefully the photos below give a good overall impression of the move itself, and a few captions are included where relevant. They should, broadly speaking, run in chronological order although there may be some inconsistencies (unfortunately inevitable when dealing with multiple photosets and sources). For those we apologise.

Again, thanks to unravelled for allowing us to include a selection of his excellent photos in those below as well. You can find his full set from the move here on flikr.

Setting the Scene

The pub garden at the Wheatsheaf. Currently it’s less than enticing.
The above shots hopefully show the relative proximity of all elements at the site

Saturday

The transporter was moved into place on Saturday morning
Traffic was diverted around the site all weekend
The roadway laid to support the lift.
There are ultimately few things in life that can’t be fixed with a big metal stick.

Sunday

Monday

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.