Opihi River rail bridge up­grade be­gins

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - AL WIL­LIAMS

A $5 mil­lion up­grade of rail bridge across the Opihi River is un­der­way.

Ki­wiRail spokes­woman Faith Thu­math said 15 piers in the ac­tive wa­ter­way would be re­placed.

Two piers on the bridge were re­placed in 2001 and 2013 fol­low­ing flood dam­age.

The lat­est project had not af­fected train ser­vices, and ser­vices would con­tinue to op­er­ate while work con­tin­ues.

The 512 me­tre bridge is about two kilo­me­tres south of Te­muka. It was built in 1932, re­plac­ing the orig­i­nal bridge which was con­structed in the late 1800s.

As the depth of the river un­der the bridge had in­creased over time, the piles on the bridge had been scoured out, Thu­math said.

‘‘Storm events and flood­ing in 2000 and 2013 high­lighted this prob­lem, and the bridge need­ing work to min­imise the risk of fu­ture dis­rup­tion of the rail net­work.

‘‘The bridge struc­ture it­self is safe and in good con­di­tion, and only the 15 piers lo­cated in the main wa­ter­way, out of the to­tal of 41, need re­plac­ing.’’

To do that, Ki­wiRail and its con­trac­tors, Ful­ton Ho­gan, jacked up the bridge onto tem­po­rary sup­ports.

New con­crete piles would be bored ap­prox­i­mately 19 me­tres be­low the river bed level, and the ex­ist­ing piers would be de­mol­ished and re­placed.

‘‘This pro­vides the sim­plest, most ef­fi­cient, and most ro­bust long-term so­lu­tion with least dis- rup­tion to rail op­er­a­tions dur­ing con­struc­tion.’’

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