Viaduct with 'theoretical load capacity of zero' gets repairs cash after seven-year wait

Ministers have confirmed £72m in funding for essential maintenance work on a key link into Birmingham city centre - though the cash was first provisionally awarded more than seven years ago.

The cash will pay for work on the Tame Valley Viaduct, which forms the northern section of the Aston Expressway. 

Department for Transport (DfT) officials accepted the route ‘is starting to show signs of deterioration'. In fact, according to a council report from July 2019: ’The current theoretical live (traffic) load capacity for the structure is rated as zero representing a significant risk to its continued operation and use.’

However, the report also notes that the risk has been mitigated through the implementation of a ‘comprehensive and innovative’ three-phased structural management strategy.

The scheme was initially approved in 2014 as part of the Local Growth Fund (LGF) but the cash was retained by the DfT, subject to Birmingham City Council providing final design works and appointing a contractor.

The third phase of the strategy, costed at £93m, involves strengthening works including:

  • strengthening of the steel box girders carrying the viaduct deck to enhance their carrying capacity and overall longevity;
  • painting of the entire external and internal surfaces of the steel box girders;
  • general refurbishment of the viaduct’s deck components, piers and abutments;
  • supporting the delivery of the above activities including preparation of the business case required by DfT to confirm allocation of the LGF grant funding for the scheme

Transport minister Baroness Vere described the release of the cash seven years on as ‘further good news for the region following our Integrated Rail Plan’.

Waseem Zaffar, the council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: ‘This is a significant investment into a key piece of our city’s highways infrastructure. If we are to ensure people can move around the city as easily as possible and help business flourish, it is vital we carry out projects like this.

‘This work will ensure the viaduct plays a key part in our transport network for many years to come and help prevent the need for even more significant works in future.’

According to the DfT, the works are due to start next year and will take almost five years to complete.

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