The area around Dudley, UK, is known colloquially as the Black Country for its heavy industries like coal and ironworking that boomed in the nineteenth century. However, time and innovation have not been kind to the area, and the industries have steadily declined over the decades. Midland Metro Alliance plans to extend its tram network in the West Midlands to help rejuvenate Dudley and connect its communities to economic opportunities in Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The improved network will provide quick and dependable transport between Wednesbury and Brierly Hill. An integral part of the route will reuse the Parkhead Viaduct, an abandoned Victorian railway structure that crosses Dudley Canal.
The 155-m-long, eight-arch viaduct was constructed in 1850. The original wooden structure was, according to local sources, encased by brick to increase its structural integrity and mitigate sinking issues. However, since its disuse in 1995, the viaduct remains a relic of the industrial revolution and railway boom that defined the period. The aged structure required extensive evaluations before refurbishment could begin.
Midland Metro Alliance contracted RSK for multiple services, including a detailed, at-height structural investigation, a tactile survey, an underwater examination of three piers, laboratory testing and chemical analyses of on-site elements. An RSK-specialist-rope-access team used its skill and dexterity to access the structure safely. They were able to check for defects such as cracking, deformation, missing brickwork, and bulging and hollow-sounding areas.
RSK completed its structural investigation without incident and on schedule. The client was extremely complimentary, saying the team had “completely raised the bar for all subcontractors”.