A MAJOR project to replace a railway bridge which means boats will be able to pass underneath it was completed on time during the Christmas holiday.

A team of 150 worked around-the-clock to ensure the project was completed while the railway was closed for seven days between Christmas and New Year.

The original bridge had been replaced in the 1960s, with an embankment leaving only a narrow opening that was too small for boats to pass through, and needed to be replaced as part of the restoration of the Stroudwater Canal.

The Ocean railway bridge project included casting the new bridge sections on site, catching and relocating thousands of fish and draining a 230-metre section of the canal.

The new bridge sections were lifted into place using a 1,200 tonne crane.

The new bridge, with its integrated towpath, will allow boats to pass under the railway as part of the restoration of the Stroudwater Canal which will eventually make Stroud and Stonehouse canal towns once again.

Stroud District Council leader, Doina Cornell, said: “This is more than just an engineering project; our aim is for the canal restoration to act as a catalyst for social, cultural, economic and environmental transformation.”

Alun Griffiths’ managing director, Stephen Tomkins, said: “After months of detailed planning, Griffiths are proud to have successfully and safely delivered the 172-hour blockade at the Ocean over the Christmas period."

The canal towpath either side of the bridge will remain closed until the end of March to allow follow-up work including re-establishing the clay lining to the canal, refilling the canal, constructing a new towpath and planting trees on the canal bank. An alternative walking and cycling route is signposted.

Cotswold Canals Connected is a partnership of organisations led by Stroud District Council and the Cotswold Canals Trust which are restoring the canal network. Phase 1A, which is now complete, restored the section between Stonehouse and Thrupp. Phase 1B, which includes this project, will restore a further four-mile section between Stonehouse and Saul Junction providing a connection to the national waterway network.

Find out more at cotswoldcanalsconnected.org