Highways England’s decision to infill a masonry arched bridge in Cumbria rather than repair it has drawn strong criticism from the readers of New Civil Engineer. The 159-year-old Great Musgrave bridge was filled in with 1,000t of concrete at the beginning of July to prevent further deterioration occurring and remove the risk of structural collapse.
The bridge is part of the Historical Railways Estate (HRE), managed by Highways England on behalf of the Department for Transport, and which includes over 3,000 such bridges, viaducts, and tunnels across the country.
Highways England Historical Railways Estate Director, Richard Marshall said: “We need to carry out this work for safety reasons. The bridge was deteriorating, and no weight restriction was in place, meaning it could be used by vehicles of any weight.”
The support provided by infilling the arch removes the risk of the bridge deck from failing. This means a weight limit is no longer required and the bridge will remain safe for everyone who wishes to use it.”
Despite the statement from Highways England, The HRE and other railway groups have raised objections to the infilling, claiming that there were no real concerns about the bridge’s condition. They also claim that repairs costing £5,000 could have made the bridge safe, whereas the infilling cost £124,000.
A reader of the NCE described the decision to infill the bridge as ‘disgraceful vandalism.’ Others commented that the work was unnecessary, uneconomical, and damaging to the environment, and accused the engineers involved of a lack of professionalism.
Campaigners have also objected to the blocking of the route under the bridge, which was earmarked as part of an 11-mile heritage line between the Eden Valley and Stainmore Railways.
Meanwhile, Eden District Council have issued a statement to say they are assessing whether the work falls under Permitted Development, or if Planning Permission should have been obtained first.
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