Viaduct on track for rail services by November, Oireachtas members told

 

RECONSTRUCTION OF the Malahide viaduct was “on schedule” and the railway line would reopen at the end of November, members of an Oireachtas delegation were told at the site yesterday.

Original plans not to rebuild the collapsed fourth pier but to replace it with a wider span have been scrapped, and it will now in fact be rebuilt.

Hundreds of people could have been drowned if a train had been on the bridge when it fell, members of the delegation were told. Three politicians were given a tour of the reconstruction of the viaduct, which collapsed just after a train crossed it on August 20th.

Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said the loss of life would have been catastrophic, as there was four metres of water in the estuary at the time.

“I asked the chief engineer about what the water level was on the seaward side of the viaduct at the time of the accident, and he said it was four metres-plus. That was shocking. He did not disagree with me when I put it to him that hundreds of people would have been drowned . . .

“I am very concerned that there would have been major loss of life were it not for the quick actions of the train driver,” he said. The driver immediately alerted operators after the viaduct collapse.

Mr O’Dowd said he intended to raise the issue of safety checks on the viaduct when Iarnród Éireann officials appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee next Thursday. “The first time that an engineer walked across that bridge, apart from the day of the complaint , was two years ago.

“It showed Iarnród Éireann had serious concerns. They didn’t get it right. The thing collapsed.”

Another member of the Oireachtas Transport Committee, Senator John Ellis, and local TD Darragh O’Brien also visited the viaduct. Mr O’Brien said: “We are all blessed that we are not dealing with a major tragedy . . . We are happy and the public should be happy with the safety regime put in place post the reconstruction of the bridge.”

Hundreds of tonnes of rock have been placed on a four-metre road along the base of the viaduct for heavy machinery. Pipes have been put in to ensure a normal flow of water through the Broadmeadow Estuary. The weir underneath the piers is being repaired.

Mr Ellis said the possibility that heavy summer rain could have been a factor in the collapse was cause for concern elsewhere. “It does pose questions for other authorities such as the NRA and local authorities with regards to bridges. They are going to have to be dealt with as soon as possible.”