ENGINEERING work is under way to build a new rail bridge that will allow historic steam engines to pass over the new £35m Porthmadog bypass.
The steel structure will carry the Ffestiniog Railway line at Minffordd, at the point where it crosses the route of the long-awaited 5.3km road.
A joint venture partnership of Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros Civil Engineering is building the Tremadog, Porthmadog and Minffordd bypass for the Welsh Assembly Government.
Ffestiniog Railway staff have removed signals and a stretch of track dating back to 1835, clearing the way for bypass workers to start digging down 20ft (6m) to the level of the new road.
The temporary work for the new bridge deck has been assembled on site. Once the existing railway embankment has been removed and new bridge abutments constructed, the deck will be slid into position allowing the rail line to be re-laid. It is anticipated the railway line will
re-open to passengers in March this year.
Alun Jones, public liaison officer for the bypass project, described the fitting of the bridge as a major milestone in the bypass scheme.
He said: “We would like to thank everyone at the Ffestiniog for their patience, professionalism and co-operation while this essential work is carried out.
“We are working to ensure there is minimal disruption to this much-loved rail route.”
Work on the new bypass is progressing well. The new section of the A487 carriageway will improve journey times, ease congestion and significantly improve environmental conditions by enabling current through traffic to bypass the three towns.
It is anticipated part of the new road past Tremadog will be ready for use by the middle of the year. The entire bypass should be completed and open to the public by the start of 2012.
Clare Britton, commercial manager at Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, added: “The bridge represents a fairly significant alteration to the line at Minffordd, but we have a good relationship with the bypass team and are happy to give the project our full support for the benefits it will bring to the area as a whole.”
Although the Ffestiniog line is due to be closed until March, rail users have the chance for a sneak preview of the final section of the Welsh Highland Railway before it opens officially on April 20.
A joint Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway service will run from Porthmadog Harbour Station to Caernarfon for one week only from Feb 20-27, giving passengers the chance to experience a ride across Britannia Bridge and through the streets of Porthmadog for the first time in more than 70 years.
The Ffestiniog Railway’s popular sherry and mince pie services will also operate on the new section of the Welsh Highland from January to March, running from Porthmadog Harbour to Hafod y Llyn and back.
Go to www.festrail.co.uk or call the booking office on 01766 516024 for details.