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Osprey moves the UK's heaviest bridge into place

A few seconds footage are all that’s needed to convey the size and scale of the UK’s heaviest single-span bridge, being moved into place by Osprey at Gipsy Patch Lane, Bristol:

On behalf of South Gloucestershire Council, Network Rail has been putting in a new railway bridge at Gipsy Patch Lane – a single-span superstructure that’s part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension scheme. This £57m investment should reduce congestion in the area and improve journey times for all road users with a new public transport system and an alternative to travelling by car.

Supporting Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd, Osprey was asked to deliver a full suite of specialist logistics that could move the UK’s heaviest, single-span, reinforced concrete ‘portal’ structure.

The approach was challenging. The video shows the single-span in transit on a 144-axle self-propelled modular transport (SPMT) unit with 576 individual wheels – and Osprey also used heavy-lift cranes and an innovative arrangement of hydraulic jacks and longitudinal beams. In all, the portal structure and the installation equipment weighed 5200 tonnes, over half the weight of the Eiffel Tower.

With a span of almost 25m, the new bridge at Gipsy Patch Lane replaces an existing single-arch brick structure. The installation needed a closure of the railway.  

During the replacement, teams removed overhead railway line equipment, dismantled and removed the existing railway track and ballast, demolished and removed the existing bridge and excavated over 30,000 tonnes of earth.

Using Osprey’s in-house experience of transporting and installing other giant assets – everything from the same kind of railway engines that will use the Bristol line, to renewable wind farm turbines or nuclear power plant components – the team used a wide range of equipment to complete the move.

Osprey’s project manager, Mitchell Smith: “Our short video clip puts things into perspective. The Gipsy Patch Lane bridge is one of several in this programme of work for Network Rail, but it’s the largest and the heaviest.

“The project did face challenges, but we quickly found ways to adapt and, in fact, improve our health and safety approaches – making it possible to work very collaboratively with our suppliers, and move the single-span superstructure into place in the shortest amount of time possible.”

The new bridge will bring communities together, reduce commuter times, and provide a boost to the business environment that helps the local economy. Mitchell added: “The Gipsy Patch Lane bridge will reduce commuter times for several major employers. We’re proud to play our part in preparing for the future, helping our local Bristol community to re-establish even better connections with an improved transport network. What’s more, many of our team live in the local area, so it’s been very rewarding to be working on something that will have such a long-term impact – this new bridge should be here for at least the next 125 years.”

Efficient road and rail networks are crucial for the economy and renewed investment in transport and communication links is essential. Traditionally, a project like this might involve many months of disruption. In all, Gipsy Patch Lane itself has to be closed for around eight months, and Osprey said it was delighted the overall disruption was being reduced by the work that has been carried out – working closely with our client, Alun Griffiths, to remove Network Rail’s older and narrower bridge and replace it with an impressive piece of smart, modern engineering.

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