Anguish as Preston's historic Old Tram Bridge is deemed 'beyond repair'
A landmark bridge connecting Preston to South Ribble will not be repaired and reopened, it has been confirmed.
People who used the Old Tram Road Bridge in Avenham Park have reacted in dismay at the announcement from bosses at Lancashire County Council (LCC).
The bridge has been shut since February after more than 200 defects were uncovered in an inspection.
However, in a glimmer of hope, the authority says it has not ruled out building a new bridge and is considering bidding for funding for the cause.
County Coun Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Having examined the Principal Bridge Inspection report further we believe that repairing the Old Tram Bridge is not a viable option.
“Unfortunately it is our opinion that the main deck beams are beyond repair and repairing the bridge piers would be uneconomic.
“Repairs to the bridge piers would also restrict options for a replacement deck.
“The current design also represents a maintenance liability as the bridge piers trap river-borne debris, and it is understood the Environment Agency would prefer a structure which avoids bridge supports within the river channel to minimise the risk of flooding.
“Our investigations have also found significant evidence to suggest that the bridge falls under the ownership of Preston City Council, showing the authority’s Parks Department applied for funding in 1965 to rebuild the bridge.
“However, we will continue to work with Preston City Council to look at options for the future of the bridge, including sourcing external funding for a new bridge, and managing its closure.”
LCC shut the Tram Road Bridge suddenly in February over safety concerns after a major inspection revealed that its condition had significantly deteriorated since it last underwent a detailed examination in 2012.
In the months since it was closed,both the county and city council worked to establish which authority the ownership of the bridge rested with. But both agree that its future is a joint responsibility.
Coun Robert Boswell, cabinet member for environment at Preston City Council, said: “Our ownership of the structure of the Old Tram Bridge is only part of the story.
“As Coun Iddon and representatives of Lancashire County Council have acknowledged, there is an ongoing dialogue between the two councils about the condition of the bridge and the desire to maintain a public crossing of the Ribble.
“As the Highway Authority, LCC naturally have an interest and responsibility for any definitive public right of way on a bridge across the river.
“Currently the situation remains the same – we are awaiting outcomes from surveys and work being done to better understand the options moving forward.”
After the bridge was closed a support group, Friends of the Old Tramroad Bridge, was launched by campaigner Michael Nye, keen to see the bridge reopened, with a petition garnering more than 5,400 signatures.
Now members of the public for whom the bridge was a regular feature in their lives are among those who are calling for the Tram Bridge to be replaced with another.
Steve Jackson, a member of Preston Harriers running club, said: “We are obviously aware of what’s going on and find it quite sad.
“We had to amend the route of our local inter club road race because we used to use the Tram Broad Bridge as part of our circuit.
“It’s a major route for people who don’t use cars. There’s a lot of people cycling through to Preston and a lot of families use it on a recreational basis. Of course there are other routes into the city but they are a bit more difficult for people.
“It really is well used and its such a shame that they say its irreparable.
“I think everyone wants a new bridge. I don’t think we are alone on that.
“It came as a shock to local people when it closed. One day it was in full working order and the next thing we know it was being closed.
“It’s a bit of an iconic thing around the Preston area.
“We accept that the local authority is living through very difficult times in terms of austerity and it would have a material impact on them but it seems that the bridge is something that the community really values.”