Sunday 9 April 2023

Basic, Unflashy Work

It beats me why he needs to commute to write a column, but if it keeps him in touch with things like this, then long may Peter Hitchens continue to do so:

My daily train journey to London has become a nightmare of diversions and replacement buses for weeks, possibly months to come – because a rail bridge over the Thames is no longer safe.

Railway rumour says this is because of a huge crack in the brickwork. Trains had been crossing it at walking pace for weeks. This is not some lightly-used branch line. In normal times dozens of heavy, fast passenger and goods trains rumble across it every day.

The present bridge, steel coathangers on brick piers, is about a century old. Part of the brick structure dates from 1856. In many years of travelling, I have never seen anybody doing major work on it. 

Network Rail, who are now in charge of looking after it, are vague about when it was last properly maintained. They told me it ‘has undergone regular intrusive and visual inspections since a stepped-up inspection regime was implemented in 2012’. But when asked how regular they couldn’t say.

They told me monitoring equipment was installed five years ago, which rather suggests they knew something was up. They plead as an excuse that this has been the wettest March for 40 years. I suspect that much of this country relies on the high standards and hard work of long-dead men, who designed and built thousands of such bridges so well we thought they would last forever. Well, they don’t.

Governments are wildly keen on huge, grand projects to build high-speed lines and new motorways. But what about the basic, unflashy work of maintenance – which all house-owners know is so essential?

I suspect that if the railways were still nationalised, this would not have happened.


  1. No party supports public ownership.

    1. That is why we need the balance of power in the coming hung Parliament.