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EXCITING: Network Rail's Carbon Cutting 'FLOW' Bridge Has Been Opened

EXCITING: Network Rail's Carbon Cutting 'FLOW' Bridge Has Been Opened
photo: BBC/Network Rail's Carbon Cutting 'FLOW' Bridge Has Been Opened
02 / 02 / 2023

A new railroad footbridge developed by Network Rail called FLOW has been opened in a British village in Shropshire, with a system for monitoring the structure condition for future improvements and more efficient maintenance.

The rural level crossing from Craven Arms was the first site to implement the prototype, and the footbridge was officially opened to the public last Friday.

Network Rail's research and development (R&D) team led the development and funding of the project, which aims to provide a sustainable, fast and affordable option for closing dangerous railroad level crossings in the UK. FLOW replaced an overly dangerous level crossing in Shropshire and thus marked the beginning of a safety modernization in the UK.

FLOW bridge, Shropshire / BBC

“Thanks to the hard work of our research and development team at Network Rail, we’ve managed to create a prototype that demonstrates the versatility of composite materials in construction on the railway,” said Owen Thomas, R&D Project Manager at Network Rail.

The name 'FLOW' stands for fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) and emphasizes its modular, optimized design. One of its main bonuses is lower design costs (about 40% cheaper than traditional steel structures), a reduced carbon footprint (due to the lack of concrete), and lower weight, leading to lower transportation and installation costs.

Andy Cross, Programme Manager at Network Rail Wales and Borders, who played a key role in designing the bridge, said: “The FLOW bridge was designed, first and foremost, as a safety solution but our teams have also gone above and beyond to create a quicker and more sustainable option for the future of the railway. Its versatile design means we have already started looking at fully accessible versions, with lifts and ramps, for other locations where that would be a suitable option.”

FLOW bridge, Shropshire / BBC

Nick Millington, Interim Route Director at Network Rail Wales and Borders, said: “We want to close as many dangerous level crossings as possible, and this new footbridge shows it can be done while saving tax-payers money and without the need to disrupt passengers’ journeys during installation. This prototype has the potential to transform railway crossings, making them safer, more affordable and fit for the future.