Main road to close for bridge removal

Drivers are advised to plan their journeys carefully next week when a main road in Taunton closes for the removal of an historic former aqueduct and rail bridge.

The Kingston Loop Bridge over Station Road is being replaced by Somerset County Council’s contractor Carillion as part of the Northern Inner Distributor Road (NIDR) project.

Station Road will be closed from 5am on Monday 23 May until 1pm on Friday 27 May. The following week from Tuesday 31 May to Thursday 2 June has been booked as a contingency should works over-run, but the road will be reopened for the bank holiday weekend.

During the closure, a number of alternative arrangements will be in place, but drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are advised to plan their journeys carefully and allow extra time to travel.

  • For vehicles, a signed diversion route will be in place via the Obridge Viaduct, although, as with any road closure, drivers are free to seek their own alternatives.
  • For pedestrians, access will be maintained during working hours (6.30am to 11.30pm) using steps and a ramp via Whitehall. Outside of working hours, one of the footpaths beneath the bridge will be reopened for pedestrian access.
  • For pedestrians with limited mobility, Carillion will be providing a shuttle bus. There will be two shuttle buses, one stationed on either side of the closure, and they will operate on demand.
  • Parents with prams and pushchairs will be offered help using the steps, or they can choose to catch the shuttle bus.
  • Cyclists can use the diversion for vehicles or will be offered assistance using the pedestrian route. Alternative routes for cyclists are also available, including via Leslie Avenue/The Avenue to the west, and via Obridge Road/Winkworth Way/offroad cycletrack/Canal Road to the east.
  • Public buses will continue to during the closure. For details please click this link: Station Road buses

Taunton Road closure map

The conversion of the Kingston Loop Bridge to a road bridge is the latest evolution of a 200-year-old transport route which has been fundamental to the growth and prosperity of Taunton. Over the years, the structure has been adapted from a canal-carrying aqueduct to a rail bridge and now to a road bridge (see below).

The new bridge has been designed to preserve the historic look of the Station Road area as much as possible.

During the demolition work, specialist equipment will be used to cut the plates out of the bottom of the bridge and then crane out the cross beams and main beams.

The two historic steel edge beams will also be removed but these will be taken away and refurbished, before being returned to the structure when the new bridge deck is constructed later in the year. The original abutments will also be retained.

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “We’re pleased this major scheme is progressing but unfortunately we do have to close Station Road while our contractor demolishes the bridge. We understand this will be disruptive as it’s a key road in a busy part of Taunton.

“We apologise for any inconvenience and would advise anyone travelling in this part of town by car, bike or on foot to be aware of the alternative arrangements, plan their journey carefully and allow extra time, particularly at peak times.”

The NIDR is a multi-million pound project commissioned by Somerset County Council and carried out by the construction contractor Carillion to unlock the Firepool regeneration site where there are ambitious plans for a riverside business, residential and shopping development. By providing a link from Priory Avenue to Staplegrove Road, it should also help to ease congestion in the town centre and on Priorswood Road.

The Kingston Loop Bridge is the last major component of the NIDR still remaining. The current estimated completion date provided by Carillion is late 2016 and Somerset County Council continues to work with the contractor to open the road as soon as possible.

History of the Kingston Loop Bridge (with thanks to the South West Heritage Trust – www.swheritage.org.uk/)

The Kingston Loop Bridge has been adapted over the centuries from a canal aqueduct to a railway bridge and will soon become a highway structure.

Canal

The current steel rail bridge occupies the site of the original aqueduct which carried the Grand Western Canal as it travelled west from its junction at Firepool with the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal.

The Grand Western Canal was completed in 1838 between Firepool and the Devon border at Lowdwells and was renowned for its elaborate canal structures.

Rail

When Brunel’s Bristol and Exeter Railway (later the Great Western Railway) reached Taunton in July 1842, the viability of the new canal was immediately threatened. It was eventually bought by the Railway Company in 1865 and two years later its structures on the Somerset section were largely dismantled.

The canal aqueduct survived (it is recorded as being in place in 1886) but was demolished when the steel rail bridge was created.

The bridge which exists today was adapted from the aqueduct to carry the goods avoiding line, or loop line, which bypassed the main line of the Great Western Railway and allowed express trains to pass. The goods avoiding line was completed in 1896.

The massive walls between the two railway bridges were constructed in 1895 of Westleigh stone to enable the construction of a new engine shed. The steel bridge, like other railway bridges, long carried an advert for Ferodo brakes.

Freight began to decline in the 1960s and 1970s and the loop bridge was finally closed to rail traffic in 1988.

Road

The new road bridge currently under construction will use a new deck and piled foundations but will retain the existing abutments and the outer steel beams.