The seaside town of Dawlish, on the south coast of Devon, hosted a landmark event in the history of UK railway infrastructure during the weekend of 13 and 14 October 2012. The coastal railway line, part of Network Rail’s mainline network is noted for its particularly scenic qualities and for being one of the most exposed in the country, constantly battling the effects of coastal erosion and salt spray induced corrosion.
The station was originally designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1830 and is grade II listed. Unfortunately the station’s 17.5 metre long covered steel footbridge, reconstructed in 1937, had deteriorated beyond repair and any similar form of replacement would probably meet the same fate in due course.
Its replacement is a lightweight structure weighing only five tonnes, approximately one third that of the current bridge. Designed by Tony Gee and Partners and subconsultant Optima Projects, it has been constructed using modern advanced materials technology and is the first Fibre Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composite bridge installed at a mainline station in the UK and notably the first Grade II listed FRP bridge. The structure aesthetically replicates the character of the original steel structure, but provides a much lighter and more durable solution and is expected to result in considerable through-life cost savings due to reduced maintenance expenditure.
The structure was installed by main contractor BAM Nuttall and fabricated by Pipex Structural Composites. It mainly utilises standard FRP structural profiles, produced by a process known as pultrusion, combined with parapet sandwich panels moulded by film infusion. The stairs at each end of the bridge are also moulded FRP units.