AN HISTORIC railway line is a step closer to re-opening after engineers slid a rail bridge over the new £35m Porthmadog bypass into position.
The steel structure carries the Ffestiniog Railway line at Minffordd, at the point where it crosses the route of the long-awaited 5.3km road.
Workers from the joint venture partnership of Balfour Beatty and Jones Bros Civil Engineering, which is building the Tremadog, Porthmadog and Minffordd bypass for the Welsh Assembly Government, assembled the bridge deck on site in stages.
Prior to that, Ffestiniog Railway staff had removed signals and a stretch of track dating back to 1835, allowing bypass workers to start digging down 20ft (6m) to the level of the new road.
Once the existing railway embankment had been removed and the new bridge abutments constructed, bypass workers were then able to slide the bridge deck into position using a combination of a temporary steel structure and hydraulic jacks.
The Ffestiniog line can now be relaid, and it is hoped the much-loved route will re-open to passengers in a matter of weeks.
Hefin Lloyd-Davies, partnership deputy project manager, said: “Moving the bridge into position was a major undertaking and represents a significant milestone in the bypass scheme.
“We would like to re-iterate our gratitude to everyone at Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways for their patience and co-operation while the work is carried out.”
Clare Britton, commercial manager at Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, said the Ffestiniog line is due to re-open early next month.
She added: “Scheduled services between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog are timetabled to restart at 10.15am on Wednesday, 2 March.
“Our external engineering staff are poised to begin restoring the track, signals and telecommunications as soon as the bridge is secured in its new location.”
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 mid-2011. The entire bypass should be completed and open to the public by the start of 2012.