Two sides of bridges

March 2017 - Boaters tend to see bridge repairs as a hindrance to their passage – especially when they are long term and block the waterway at peak times, like the current stoppage on the Bridgewater Canal and another on the BCN's Wyrley and Essington Canal – but a bridge is a two-way structure, writes Peter Underwood.

Bridges are vital to road and rail traffic and the upside is that means they are sometimes someone else's responsibility and repairs don't have to come out of the navigation authority's resources.

Currently £1.5m is being spent on vital repairs to an 84-year-old road bridge, which carries the A49 trunk road over the River Weaver Navigation in Cheshire – and it is all about safeguarding the bridge for thousands of motorists.

The £1.5 million programme to refurbish Acton Swing Bridge, near Northwich, began on 23 January 2017 and is reportedly on target to be completed by July.

The repairs have been arranged by the Canal & River Trust but are being funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council. The work involves a complete refurbishment of the bridge deck, including strengthening to its underside, as well as improvements to the bridge appearance.

During the work, vehicles using the bridge have been restricted to one lane, controlled by traffic lights. These are manually operated during busy times in an effort to keep motorist waiting times to a minimum.

About 15,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge. The towpath underneath the bridge and the pedestrian walkway over the bridge continue to remain open as far as is reasonably practicable.

Boats are not affected unless they are more than 2.5m high and even that is only until the end of March - the bridge will again be able to swing for boat traffic after the beginning of April.

Richard Spencer, C&RT project manager said: "Works are progressing well on the underside of the bridge. We are aiming to remove the scaffolding by the end of March, enabling us to complete scheduled swings for larger boats to pass.

"Having removed the road surface, we were able to inspect the exposed upper deck and discovered several corroded steel sections needing replacement on the northbound carriageway. The new sections are in production and we are still on track to get the road re-opened by July."

The Council’s Director of Place Operations, Maria Byrne added: "This vital project has shown excellent partnership working between the Canal & River Trust and the Council. The Council has provided the full funding for these repairs and we are committed to ongoing investment in our highway network."

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