Leven rail link: Council in race against time to get new bridge plans in place
Council officers are facing a race against time to deliver a new Leven Railway Bridge ahead of the town being reconnected to the rail network in just over two years’ time.
It is understood that eight different options for the replacement of the structure - which is the main link from Methil and Buckhaven into Leven over the River Leven - remain on the table, and a final report on the preferred solution is due in a matter of weeks.
Time is now of the essence though, as trains are expected to resume running in and out of Levenmouth for the first time in decades in December 2023.
Around £2.5million has already been identified within Fife Council’s capital plan to strengthen the bridge deck of the existing Leven Railway Bridge, but further investigations have revealed that the bridge abutments now also need to be replaced.
That is likely to increase the complexity - and indeed the cost - of the project, and has left the council and its partners striving to find a suitable solution as soon as possible.
A completely new bridge is one of several possibilities, although that could lead to lengthier diversions and disruption for locals and visitors alike.
In an update to local councillors, Ross Spiers, structural services manager at FIfe Council, explained the local authority was effectively dealing with two bridges - the Leven Railway Bridge and the adjoining ‘Bawbee Bridge’ - so the plan is to co-ordinate the rail and bridgeworks via a single contractor.
“Replacement of the bridge abutments for the Leven Rail Bridge and the adjoining reinforced concrete arch Bawbee Bridge now exclude the potential for a temporary overbridge on the alignment of the existing bridge,” he explained.
“Applying a bridge support on a reinforced concrete arch would fundamentally compromise the stability of the Bawbee Bridge and is to be avoided.
“The duration of the bridgeworks is likely to be in the region of 12 months hence the option of closing the bridge to traffic, whilst ideal from a construction perspective, would impose a major diversion route for the local community.”
Mr Spiers pointed out that the Leven Railway Bridge has had an 18-tonne weight limit since the 1990s, and schemes to replace the bridge deck have been factored into the council’s capital plan ever since.
However, that was again paused when plans to reinstate the rail link to Leven resurfaced - in order to ensure any proposals for a new station and rail electrification measures would be co-ordinated and integrated with the plans for the bridge design.
With tight timescales now in place, a full report highlighting fully-costed options is due to be considered by FIfe Council’s policy and co-ordination committee on December 4.
“We’re now looking at everything we can do and the best way to do it,” Mr Spiers concluded.
“One of the options is to do nothing, which obviously isn’t an option in reality but has to be included in the report to the committee next month.”
And asked by councillors if the timescale is feasible, Mr Spiers stressed: “It has to be.
“We’ve been having fortnightly meetings with Network Rail and the target is to run parallel.
“We simply couldn’t do it otherwise.”