Broadmeadow collapse: “However good we may be at building things, we are woeful at maintaining them”

As Pete noted in detail here, Irish Rail’s estimate of three months plus for getting the Broadmeadow viaduct back up is a gross underestimation verging on a crass PR ploy to mollify irate commuters. Today’s Irish Times editorial takes if further and notes the implications or the rest of the Irish railway network:

Given that all of the remaining 10 piers standing in Broadmeadow estuary are subject to the same tidal scouring as the one that crumbled on Friday last, complete replacement might be the preferable long-term solution. Clearly, however, a project of such magnitude cannot be completed in a few months.

What all of this highlights is that, however good we may be at building things, we are woeful at maintaining them. Railway bridges are the most vulnerable sections of any rail network and, as Mark Gleeson said, “it is essential that all bridges are inspected nationwide to ensure no critical faults have been overlooked”. Although strapped for cash due to Government cutbacks – which, ironically, might include closure of the Limerick Junction-Rosslare line, as recommended by the McCarthy report –Iarnród Éireann must embark on a systematic programme of bridge inspections. A cursory glance is not enough if lives are to be saved.

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  • Dan Sullivan

    I have a standard rant in my head about the politics of maintenance versus of the politics of the opening. You hardly ever see the local pol or minister turning up for the still working after 27 years type event, but they’re out there with a hard hat and a trowel every time some new bridge is built or building topping out.

    It’s the announcement of funding for a new hospital that gets the press coverage, the lack of an announcement of securing ongoing funding to staff the place is hardly ever noticed.

  • If complete viaduct replacement is contemplated, it should involve an increase to 3 or 4 tracks as on the Kildare line.

  • aquifer

    1 Patch the existing viaduct to let the trains run
    2 Build a second new one parallel to it
    3 Repair the existing one to create more tracks?

  • Sluggerdom has been hammering this for some time. Nor is the problem merely for Iarnród Éireann: remember the Derry line problems?

    Suddenly reality strikes: there is only one line north-and-south. A proportion of IE’s rolling stock is now “off-games”. Meanwhile, at least one engineering textbook trumpets the (ahem!) ground-breaking techniques used by Benaim to bridge the Malahide Estuary (also used for the Blackwater Crossing Viaduct in Cork: should someone be warned?):

    … a very economical form of construction that is ductile in the critical launching process.

    Perhaps we should not go into too many writhings of self-disgust: those PPI schemes for London Underground are going sourer than last month’s milk; it looks as if London’s Crossrail would be iced by an in-coming austerity Tory Government; and whatever option Network Rail suggest in an hour’s time for HS2 ain’t gonna happen. Yet France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and – heaven help us – even California are getting further and further into high-speed heaven. We’ve woken up to the substitute Dublin/Dundalk bus-journey being five minutes faster than train, at least until the holiday seadson ends.