Controversy rumbles on over Cumbria bridge

17/06/2021
Chris Ames

The chair of the Transport Select Committee has again written to ministers over Highways England’s management of the Historical Railway Estate, seeking details of a controversial project to infill a bridge in Cumbria.

In a letter to transport minister Baroness Vere, committee chair Huw Merriman wrote that MPs had been informed of 16 local authorities who have not given consent to the use of permitted development orders to carry out what Highways England has said are urgent works.

He wrote: ‘We have been informed that Highways England twice refused Eden District Council’s request to pause works at the Cumbria bridge, despite not having planning permission. We would like to know why infilling continued in these circumstances and why the bridge presented an urgent risk to public safety.’

Highways England has told Highways that it had not ‘been instructed to stop work by anybody’. As Highways reported last week, the council said Highways England had refused what it described as a request to stop the works on the bridge at Great Musgrave near Warcop.

The company’s director for the Historical Railways Estate, Richard Marshall, told Highways: ‘For safety reasons there is an urgent need to strengthen this bridge. The bridge parapets have been struck and scraped many times by vehicles unsuitable to use it. There’s currently no suitable weight restriction in place for the bridge, meaning drivers of large or heavy vehicles could use the bridge without knowledge of its weakness.

‘We will always work with local groups to ensure our work does not impact on future planned projects. Infilling this structure means that it can be reopened if plans for a rail line develop further, and by carrying out this work the route can remain safe for the drivers who need to use this bridge.’

Highways England also disputed campaigners’ claims that the road over the bridge is subject to an 18-tonne weight limit and told Highways that it has been assessed as being unsafe due to having no weight restriction. A spokesperson said: ‘By carrying out this work the route can remain safe for the drivers who need to use this bridge.’

However, it remains unclear why Highways England considers that work to strengthen the bridge needs to be carried out urgently and why this needs to be done by infilling.

An inspection report from 1998, obtained by campaigners in the HRE group, recommends placing a 17 tonne weight limit on the bridge and suggests repointing the arch barrel to carry vehicles of up to 40 tonnes.

Campaigners stated that Highways England had refused to make this document available under the Freedom of Information Act.

Although Highways England stated that it had spoken to Cumbria County Council's bridges team, it is not clear whether the imposition of a weight limit was discussed, particularly in the context of its statement that the bridge parapets were often hit by unsuitable vehicles.

Graeme Bickerdike, a member of The HRE Group, said: ‘What’s emerging here is clear evidence that Great Musgrave bridge is being infilled for policy reasons, not because of any engineering or public safety issues.

‘The condition of the bridge - as described in Highways England’s own inspection reports - remains fair, with no signs of overloading. In February 2020, the inspector’s only recommendation relating to load-bearing elements was to repoint the open joints.’

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

ALSO INSIDE:

  • Exclusive: M25 delays data doesn't add up
  • Autonomous vehicles: Life after the hype
View the latest issue


Highways jobs

Recycling Centre Site Operatives

Up to £23344 per annum + Per Annum, Pro Rata if part time
Recycling Centre Site OperativesPermanent, Full Time£23,344 per annum (pro-rata for part time roles)Location
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Highway Asset and Development Manager

Grade N Scp 50 £59,031 to Scp 53 £62,076, plus car allowance
To be responsible for leading, developing and delivering an effective, efficient and safe Highway Asset Management Service Bolton, Greater Manchester
Recruiter: Bolton Council

Streetworks Compliance Officer

£33,945 - £34,834
This is an exciting opportunity to join a new Streetworks Team Cumbria
Recruiter: Westmorland and Furness Council

Administration Assistant

£24,294 – 25,979 pro rata
We have an opportunity for an enthusiastic and capable person. Accrington, Lancashire
Recruiter: Hyndburn Borough Council

Mechanic (LCV/LGV)

£32,076 - £33,945 Plus Tool Allowance
The successful applicant will inspect, service and repair a variety of vehicles (LCV/LGV) Accrington, Lancashire
Recruiter: Hyndburn Borough Council

Contract Officer BDR

Band H - Band J £33,024 - £43,421 (pay award pending)
We are looking for an enthusiastic, talented, motivated, and ambitious person to become the BDR Contract Officer. Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Principal Transport Officer

£63,112 per annum
leading the capital’s largest new regeneration project. Brent Civic Centre (32 Engineers Way, Wembley, HA9 0FJ).
Recruiter: Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation

Highway Condition & Safety Inspection Officer - CMB982e

Grade 10, £33,945- £34,834 per annum
To undertake regular highways safety and condition inspections of the highways network Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumberland Council

Director of Open Spaces, Leisure & Culture

up to £133,569
Enfield is home to an increasingly diverse population we are investing in our places and people Enfield (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Enfield London Borough Council

Director of Economy, Transport and Planning

Circa £140,000
Instantly recognised for our maritime heritage and the UK’s only Island city. Portsmouth, Hampshire
Recruiter: Portsmouth City Council

Bicester Garden Town Programme Manager

Grade M
Cherwell District Council
Recruiter: Cherwell District Council

Mechanical Engineer

£36,648 - £39,186 (pay award pending)
You will be required to maintain effective liaison with other professionals and key stakeholders Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Driver - Northallerton - (IPT234)

£23,893 to £25,119 per annum pro rata
We also undertake registered Local Bus Services (transporting the public) and community transport journeys. Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire Council

Senior Fleet Compliance Assistant

£26,873-£29,269 per annum
We’re looking for a Senior Fleet Compliance Assistant to join our Fleet Management Team. Skipton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire Council

Senior Officer (Traffic and Road Safety) OCC615318

£43,421 - £46,464 per annum
Please note we are actively looking at our ways of working using everything we have learnt and heard from our employees Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Senior Officer (Traffic Control) OCC613685

£35,745 - £38,223 per annum
You will take a lead role in creating and implementing traffic signal and information strategies Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Officer Traffic Control Centre OCC609561

£29,269 - £32,076 per annum
This role in our team supports the movement of traffic across Oxfordshire by responding to both planned and unplanned events. Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recruiter: Oxfordshire County Council

Programme Control Officer

£35,745 - £36,648
The ideal candidate will have experience of project or programme management techniques and methodologies. Cumbria / Various
Recruiter: Cumberland Council

Senior NEC4 Contract Supervisor CMB1000e

£44,428 – £45,441
Are you an experienced NEC4 Supervisor? Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumberland Council

Major Projects NEC4 Senior SupervisorCMB999e

£53,775 – £55,963
Are you a knowledgeable or accredited NEC4 Supervisor? Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumberland Council

Highways Presents

 


Latest Video