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Advice/Opinion/Insight/Events/Case study/Customer care/Training LIGHTING THE WAY

Live wire

Bridge over the River Plym

> The old Laira rail bridge, closed since the 1980s, now carries cyclists and pedestrians across the River Plym

The disused Laira rail bridge is now enjoying a new lease of life as a pedestrian and cycle way, complete with feature lighting. Andrew Brister finds out how EX2 Electrical helped bring a derelict structure back to life By Andrew Brister


lymouth, among the UK’s most famous of seafaring cities, gets its name from the River Plym. The river flows for some 20 miles from its source, 450m above sea level on Dartmoor, before it enters the sea at Plymouth Sound. Its tidal estuary is known as the Laira, and the rail bridge over it, a once-proud relic of the Victorian age, has been given a new lease of life as a pedestrian and cycle way after lying dormant for nearly 30 years. Exeter-based electrical contractor EX2 Electrical is part of the team responsible for the transformation for client Plymouth City Council. The bridge has an illustrious history. It was built by Messrs Relf and Pethick after being authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1883, and opened in July 1892. The bridge carried the London and South Western Railway branch to Turnchapel over the River Plym and later the Great Western Railway also had running powers over the bridge, providing access to its Yealmpton branch at Plymstock. Sadly, the bridge fell into rack and ruin. Passenger trains ceased to use it when services to Turnchapel and Yealmpton were terminated in the 1950s, but the bridge remained in use to serve the Associated Portland Cement works. It finally closed to traffic in the 1980s.

New lease of life Now, a £3.5 million scheme has turned the disused railway bridge into a walking and cycling route. The bridge completes an almost continuous off-road cycle route between Devonport in the west of Plymouth to Plymstock and Plympton in the east. Restoration has been part-funded by the government’s local sustainable transport fund because Plymouth, with major developments set to bring thousands of new homes to the east of the River Plym, faces severe transport pressure.


The bridge connects existing walking and cycling facilities near The Ride (east of the river) with the Laira Cycleway (west of the river) and forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 27. It also improves access to the Laira Heritage Trail. The project required the old rail bridge to be structurally and cosmetically restored, a new deck to be installed for pedestrians and cyclists and new lighting introduced, including both deck-mounted fittings for wayfinding and feature lighting so that the bridge can be lit up for special events. EX2 worked alongside main contractor South West Highways and lighting manufacturer Philips on the project. “When we came to take a look at the bridge, we knew it was a project that required some out-of-the-box thinking,” explains EX2’s managing director Martyn Beale. Ironwork was badly corroded in places and the sleepers used to support the old rail track were rotting and falling through. “We had to devise a way of bringing the lighting scheme together in terms of distribution, cabling and containment,” he adds. EX2’s electrical solution also had to take into account two very important considerations. “First, the bridge is above the Laira tidal estuary, so it’s salt water down below and everything had to be corrosion-proof,” explains Beale. “Second, once the grit-blasting and repainting of the bridge was completed we wouldn’t be allowed to drill into the structure, so everything had to be pre-drilled prior to painting.” The new paintwork will guarantee the life of the bridge for a further 25 years and could not be compromised.

Corrosive issues Everything had to be designed, set out, pre-marked, pre-drilled and bolted together before the protective coating was applied to the bridge. “It just took a different approach to bring it all together,” says Beale, modestly. “In terms of corrosion-proof materials, we had no options other than to use stainless steel or pvc containment systems.

Spring 2016 Connections

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Connections - Spring 2016  
Connections - Spring 2016