A BATTLE to save a village’s historic railway bridge from demolition has ended in success.

The Grade II-listed bridge in Steventon, near Didcot, was due to be knocked down by Network Rail as part of railway electrification plans.

But following what the company described as ‘extensive and breakthrough testing’ using computer simulations it found a speed reduction to 110mph through the village meant wires could pass underneath the existing bridge.

Dr Chris Wilding, chair of Steventon Parish Council which has been fighting the plans since they were first announced several years ago, said the confirmation was a ‘big relief’ as the demolition would have caused ‘gridlock’ in the village and surrounding area.

Network Rail last year officially appealed against Vale of White Horse District Council’s refusal of permission to demolish Steventon railway bridge.

However the company revealed as well as pursuing the appeal it was also ‘looking at new modelling techniques’ that could eliminate the need to get rid of the structure.

The rail company had previously insisted the project, which would need a 10-month road closure and cut off a major route into the village, was the only way to electrify the line.

But councillors rejected the plan in the summer of 2018, against the advice of their planning officers.

The bridge over the Great Western main line was originally due to be replaced with a higher bridge to allow overhead wires, needed to run trains in electric, to pass underneath enabling them to run at 125mph.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western route director, said: “We are really pleased to have found a solution which means we can continue to safely run trains in electric whilst minimising impact on the community.

“This has been possible by working collaboratively with the Department for Transport, train operators and local authorities over the last 18 months.

“Keeping the existing bridge and using a lower speed of 110mph will increase the amount of maintenance required, but we accept this as a compromise for not removing and replacing the B4107 bridge.”

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A statement from the parish authority thanked everyone for their support and said it was ‘both pleased and relieved’ at the news that Network Rail was withdrawing its appeal, adding: “It has ended the threat of having our High Street closed for almost a year and the logistical transport headache for residents, businesses and people in neighbouring villages.”

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It continued: “We always knew that technologies, associated testing and modelling techniques were evolving in the UK to enable solutions similar to those being deployed on the continent.

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“It is our hope that much more of our railway heritage can be retained as Network Rail progress electrification throughout the UK, than was previously the case.”