Update: Network Rail maintenance train damaged railway bridge in Essex as disruption expected until Sunday

Damaged bridge at Blunts Hall between Witham and Hatfield Peverel. Picture: Network Rail

Damaged bridge at Blunts Hall between Witham and Hatfield Peverel. Picture: Network Rail - Credit: Archant

A crumbling railway bridge in Essex disrupting services on the mainline to London was damaged by a large Network Rail maintenance train.


The state-owned rail company has launched an internal review as London-bound services from Suffolk and north Essex continue to be delayed or cancelled due to urgent repair work to the railway bridge at Blunts Hall in Witham.

The damage was reported on Sunday morning after a Network Rail ballast cleaner train, which is in operation overnight at weekends to improve the track’s foundations as part of a £170million mainline upgrade, caused masonry on the bridge to crumble.

Speed restrictions to ensure safety are now in place around the bridge, located between Witham and Hatfield Peverel, as engineers carry out emergency repair work.

Disruption is expected to last until 2am on Sunday.


A Network Rail spokesman said: “Damage to the railway bridge at Blunts Hall in Witham was discovered on Sunday morning.

“Following temporary repairs, which took place throughout Sunday and on Sunday night, both lines reopened on Monday morning. A temporary speed limit is in place over the bridge – 40mph in one direction and 20mph in the other – meaning journeys through the affected area are taking a few minutes longer than normal.

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“Engineers will inspect the bridge further to see if the speed limit over the bridge can be increased further and further repairs will also need to be carried out to the brickwork.

“Network Rail’s High Output Ballast Cleaner – which renews the crushed rock foundation on which the tracks and sleepers are laid – was working on the section of the track above the bridge when the damage occurred. We are currently reviewing if all procedures were followed during this work.

“Since January, the high-output machine has been working overnight on weeknights as part of a £170m upgrade of the line between London and Norwich taking place this year.

“This is a vital project to replace the ballast, which supports the track and aims to provide passengers with a more reliable service.”

An Abellio Greater Anglia spokesman said: “Due to urgent repairs to a bridge between Witham and Hatfield Peverel trains have to run at reduced speed on all lines.

“We would like to apologise for the disruption to your train services.”

This morning, three services from Witham to London were cancelled between 6.15am and 7.30am.

The 6.24am Norwich to London Liverpool Street was also cancelled.