HomeRail NewsBridging the gap at Kenilworth

Bridging the gap at Kenilworth

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In 2016, construction work got underway at Kenilworth to create a new station building, platforms and a footbridge as part of an ambitious integrated transport system. For many years, residents in the Warwickshire town had lobbied hard for a new railway station following the closure and demolition of the old facility in 1965. Since then, the population of Kenilworth has increased by 50 per cent and today it is home to more than 24,000 people.

In 2013, following intricate negotiations, Warwickshire County Council confirmed that a new station would at last be built. Working closely with Network Rail, it was agreed that the facility, situated on the rail route between Leamington Spa and Coventry and very close to Kenilworth’s town centre, would receive a new hourly train service – enabling connections at Coventry to and from the north of the county, Birmingham and London and connections from Leamington Spa to London and the Thames Valley.

The local authority anticipates that the new station will boost the local economy, providing access to jobs, education and leisure opportunities within the town.

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Through the eye of a needle

Graham Construction, a family-owned company with a proud heritage dating back to the eighteenth century, was appointed principal contractor and is currently on site. The project involves the construction of new platforms, a new station building, cycle sheds, two lift shafts and a footbridge. Additionally, a car park and bus stop/turning facility will be provided.

The new facility is located on the site where the previous station once stood. Although the original station was demolished, the original footbridge and public right of way have remained in place ever since. This existing footbridge will be carefully restored and re-furbished as part of the works while an additional bridge, this one including lifts for better accessibility, has recently been installed.

A 500-tonne crane was used to install the footbridge, which spans 16 metres between supports and weighs 13 tonnes, within an eight-hour weekend possession on Saturday 8 July between 00:30 and 08:40. A further three five-hour possessions were utilised during midweek possessions to install the precast units which form the two lift shafts.

Although that all sounds fairly routine, it was actually a complex operation described by the project team as, “threading the eye of a needle having one eye shut and standing on one leg”. This is because the new bridge span, had to be manoeuvred up and over the existing bridge, avoiding local residential housing only metres away from one of the supports.

In total, some five bridge segments were installed over the course of these possessions, as were 16 concrete lift shaft segments, the heaviest of which weighed in at 10.5 tonnes and was lifted at a radius of 49 metres.

Outside of footbridge possession works, the Graham team is progressing well with the wider project. All piled foundations are installed, platform beams and slabs are in position, the station building is in the process of being erected and the car park works are underway.

Complex projects

Graham has a team of over 2,000 talented and highly qualified individuals who deliver innovative and value-adding services and projects across a wide variety of sectors.

Rail contracts director Jonathan Kerr, who was appointed earlier this year, is a highly experienced and widely respected civil engineering professional who has worked on a variety of complex infrastructure projects, primarily consisting of rail, bridges, highways and marine.

Recent projects undertaken by Jonathan and his team include the £11.2 million design, enabling works and build of a new M32 bus only junction and bus lane for South Gloucestershire Council, and civils works for Network Rail on the Wales Route Plan framework which were undertaken on live railway infrastructure.

The team also completed the £21 million A138 Chelmer viaduct replacement – a project that was completed at the end of 2016, following the successful delivery of the £9.5 million Tennison Road bridge (pictured above and below) replacement scheme in Croydon on behalf of Network Rail.

Graham’s rail division is currently leading the design and build of a project at Marsh Barton where the company has been commissioned to design and build a new railway station on behalf of Devon County Council. In addition, the company is strengthening a railway embankment and retaining wall at Pontypridd, in Wales and has a design and build contract for the widening of Lea Bridge overbridge in the London Borough of Walthamstow.

The team has also recently been appointed to replace the Bellenden and Westdown Road bridges and complete structural works to the existing River Medway bridge on behalf of Network Rail. The installation of new vehicle protection barriers at Reading station have also recently been completed.

In fact, over the last 12 months, the company has also been appointed to two major frameworks with Network Rail Wales Route (civil engineering planned works framework) and a five-year London Underground station works improvement programme.

Doing things differently

Jonathan knows that there can be no greater testament to the work delivered than positive feedback received from customers. A good example is a recent comment from Devon County Council’s chief engineer, Keith Dentith, who stated: “Graham is a fantastic business – a very knowledgeable team and incredibly accommodating. Their pre-work engagement and planning work so far on the Marsh Barton railway station project has been exemplary and it is clear to see that their wider industry experience and knowledge from other sectors adds huge value. I couldn’t be more pleased with the company’s contribution.”

“We try to think, act and behave differently,” Jonathan commented. “We believe that we need to offer support that adds value, coming up with new and innovative ways of doing things and making a profitable difference to our customers”.

“I believe that this can be achieved consistently if you work closely with your customers and stakeholders in the planning phases of any project and then maintain that throughout every stage of delivery – working together towards a common objective. In my experience, this will often shape and define the way in which projects are delivered from beginning to end.”

Strong leadership

Jonathan is now responsible for providing leadership and direction to the company’s growing rail division. “I believe that by selecting the right people anything is possible and here at Graham I have surrounded myself with strong teams who are hardworking and committed to making a positive difference to the people we serve.

“I know that by treating people in the right way we will continue to deliver great customer experience and a sustainable service as a consequence. My aim is to build and sustain momentum. My approach, which is tried and tested over the last 15 years, is based on keeping back office costs low whilst focusing on delivering front line services fantastically well for our growing customer base.

“I believe that Graham is a business that offers something very distinct from what already exists. Together, my team and I will approach business growth proactively and opportunistically, unlocking opportunities by offering a memorable, outstanding, unique, service experience and impressing and delighting our customers. Success in one area will lead to success in others and this will enable us to sustain growth. I look forward to our journey together – one which will sustain energy and focus; delivering safely and delivering well to achieve a positive outcome.”

Graham is no stranger when it comes to addressing missing links in major projects. The company’s work on the iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin was ‘Highly Commended’ at the 2011 BCI Awards while regional stakeholders and industry commentators described its work on the M1/M2/Westlink upgrades in Belfast as “exceptional”.

Although the new footbridge and station development at Kenilworth is not the biggest and most challenging of Graham’s projects, the assignment will certainly give the company an opportunity to showcase its experience and expertise within the rail industry.

In focus: Kenilworth station…

Kenilworth station was built by the London and Birmingham Railway as part of the construction of the Coventry to Leamington line and opened for passengers on 9 December 1844.

The L&BR, which had earlier opened the 112-mile line from Euston station to Birmingham Curzon Street, merged with the Grand Junction Railway and the Manchester and Birmingham Railway in 1846 to create the London and North Western Railway.

The Coventry to Leamington line was doubled over most of its length late in the nineteenth century, with only one short section at Gibbet Hill, just outside Kenilworth, remaining as single track.

Kenilworth station was closed in 1965 following the Beeching report, and the line singled apart from a passing loop at Kenilworth and the lines leading into the two remaining stations at Coventry and Royal Leamington Spa. Having remained open for goods, the line close completely in 1969 but was reopened in 1977. However, Kenilworth station remained closed and was demolished shortly afterwards.

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