Bridge over Central Line in Woodford to remain closed

A crumbling concrete bridge over a tube line in Redbridge is to remain closed to all vehicles until it can be propped up.

A section of Broadmead Road – a major road in Woodford – has been closed since July this year due to “significant structural defects” that threaten the Central Line tracks running underneath it.

The bridge’s owner, Redbridge Council, hopes to install a temporary “propping tower” structure to prevent the road from collapsing.

However, last week at a full council meeting, cabinet member for environment and sustainability Jo Blackman said she was “unable to provide details or timelines” for when work will start.

Conservative group leader Paul Canal said the bridge – a key east-west route for cars, buses and emergency vehicles – is a “lifeline” for Woodford residents.

Redbridge Council and Transport for London (TfL) initially refused to explain what structural defects the reinforced concrete bridge is suffering from.

However, documents obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service through Freedom of Information requests say that concrete is falling off the structure in a process known as spalling and metal reinforcements have become corroded.

Despite most of the deteriorating sections of the bridge being visible to the public, TfL has refused to share most details of the deterioration, claiming the information could be used by someone intent on “targeting the transport network infrastructure”.

As early as 2014, TfL – which inspects structures travelling over its network – raised concerns about the bridge and warned Redbridge Council that failure to take action would result in “injury or service loss with the ensuing legal actions”.

In recent years Redbridge appears to have carried out repair work and has already installed a propping up structure under the bridge on the eastern side of the Central Line tracks.

But in July this year, following another TfL warning about defects and repairs that are “beginning to fail”, the bridge was closed.

A surveyor for Redbridge Council said they had “concerns of magnitude” about the defects and called for a propping up tower as an “urgent interim measure”, as well as a hammer tapping survey, more frequent inspections and a review by a specialist in concrete deterioration.

Long-term solutions could include “full or partial reconstruction” or a cathodic protection system, which is often used to protect ships and undersea equipment from corrosion.

Cllr Canal said: “Spending money on shiny new projects with glossy press releases whilst failing to do the bread and butter work, maintain existing infrastructure is more than neglect, it is gross incompetence.

“To be warned in 2014 of serious potential problems and fail to deal with them adequately is an outrageous breach of their duty of care to my constituents. 

“Those responsible should resign.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter