Is it the end for Historic Bridges?
(Published KWN 12 January 2013)
It is being reported in the Kenilworth Weekly News that the electrification of the railway line through Kenilworth will be simplified by the fact that all the bridges through the town have already been raised some 50 years ago for a similar proposal. This is not the case.
The only bridges that were raised are those carrying Park Hill and Spring Lane, both of which have a pronounced hump where the work took place. In addition, the footbridge connecting Priory Road and Farmer Ward Road was built with adequate clearance as was, I believe, that at the end of Clarendon Road.
However I do not know with certainty if the current technical specifications state that the clearances under these bridges are to modern requirements.
The footbridge at the end of Clarkes Avenue* and both bridges on the St Johns gyratory system are amongst those that will need to be raised; the existing ‘hump’ in the elder of these two bridges will need to be substantially increased.
What is currently unknown is if the single section of track between Common Lane and Gibbett Hill will be doubled; if it is this could result in the demolition of the single-track sandstone bridges at these places that are still very much as built in 1844, save for the addition of handrails.
One unavoidable victim of the improvements will be the splendid farm bridge (above) over the railway just south of Kenilworth cricket ground. The arch will not be sufficient for clearance of electrical equipment for double track. This too dates from 1844 and carries the Leigh coat of arms.
When Kenilworth’s branch line was completed, there were only about 2,000 miles of railway in the country. Today after decades of closures there is almost five times the route mileage there was in 1844. This and closures of a number of early railways puts Kenilworth on one of the oldest operational railways. It was in any case, one of the very first branch lines.
Although the electrification is welcome should it result in Kenilworth once more having a station**, it will be less straightforward than is being suggested and could result in the sweeping away of many historic structures.
* I was promptly contacted by the gentleman who lives alongside this bridge who, correctly, pointed out that it had indeed been raised at some time by about a foot.
** The new Kenilworth station opened on 30th April 2018. The electrification is currently on hold.
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