HS2: Construction Begins on First Giant Pier for UK’s Longest Rail Bridge

Work on the first of 56 giant concrete piers that will support the Colne Valley Viaduct – the UK’s longest railway bridge once built – has begun.

The viaduct will cross a number of lakes outside of London and measure 3.4km in length.

The Colne Valley Viaduct under construction
The Colne Valley Viaduct under construction

The first pier was cast by HS2 main works contractor Align JV, which comprises Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick, and working in partnership with Kilnbridge.

This concrete pier weighs around 370 tons. Measuring 6m in height, it was cast on site by engineers using a specially-designed formwork to create the right shape. Four days after casting this formwork was removed.

Every pier is designed to support the full weight of the deck above and will stand on concrete piles going up to 55m into the ground. This foundation work started earlier in 2021.

The construction of the first four jetties across the lakes that allow equipment to be moved into position has also been completed. Where the viaduct crosses the lake, the piles will be bored directly into the lakebed. A cofferdam will be used to hold back the water while the pier is being constructed.

David Emms, Project, Client, HS2 Ltd, said:

“The Colne Valley Viaduct will be one of HS2’s most iconic structures and it’s great to see how much has been achieved already. I’d like to thank the whole team for the huge amount of work they’ve done to get us to this point.”

Align’s Project Director, Daniel Altier, said that the deck sections would be manufactured at the joint venture’s main construction site to the west of London, inside the M25. The engineers would use a huge launching girder and form the deck north to south. The deck will comprise 1000 separate segments.

The viaduct will sit roughly 10m above the water level.

HS2 has worked with Affinity Water and the Environment Agency to monitor water quality and agree on working methods over the past six years.

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