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Old Tram Bridge ‘worse than first thought’ but councillors vow to fix it

Posted on - 4th July, 2019 - 6:00am | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, History, Nostalgia, Preston City Centre, Preston History, Preston News
The Old Tram Bridge is in worse condition that first thought

The Old Tram Bridge across the River Ribble is in much worse condition than first thought – but councillors have vowed to work together to find a way to reopen the iconic structure.

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In inspection in February found the bridge had serious defects and immediately closed it to the public.

But further investigations revealed more than 200 faults with the historic bridge.

Read more: Old Tram Bridge closed due to collapse fears

After reading a report by Lancashire County Council’s civil engineers, county and city councillors said they were disappointed by the condition of the bridge but agreed they wanted to find a way to make it safe for pedestrians, cyclists and horses.

However in its current state, it remains a danger to the public.

The inspection found:

  •  50 of the 81 pre-stressed bridge beams have extensive horizontal surface cracking, indicating that they could fail suddenly without warning; 
  • Connections between reinforced concrete beams appear to have failed, meaning they no longer support each other. There is a risk they could fail suddenly or roll off their supports; 
  • Many of the beams are not seated correctly on supporting bridge piers, with some areas of the piers breaking off, reducing the supporting area even further. Large cracks have appeared in some piers. There is a significant risk that support to one or more beams will be completely lost and a beam will collapse; 
  • The 1930’s concrete piers and struts are in very poor condition, with many areas of exposed and badly rusted reinforcement. Some struts have fallen off, causing damage to the piers. There is potential for more concrete to fall, posing a significant risk to anyone below; 
  • The parapets are badly corroded, particularly the supporting posts, and there is a risk they could collapse if there were crowds on the bridge leaning on them. 
Cracks to the walkway on the Old Tram Bridge

Cllr Keith Iddon, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “In the land of milk and honey it would be wonderful if we could just fix this.

“There is public interest in the bridge and what we would like to see happen is that we would repair the bridge and please the residents of Preston and surrounding areas.

“I am very open on the view that we want to see what we can do to reopen the bridge.”

Read more: Pressure grows for Old Tram Bridge to be repaired and reopened

The old tram line was opened in 1802 as a link between the northern and southern sections of the Lancaster Canal, between Walton Summit and the Preston.

In December 1935, storms and high water levels led to extensive damage to the bridge, and sections of the supports were rebuilt with concrete.

Concrete supports are not sitting properly

In 1966 the timber deck was replaced with pre-stressed concrete beams, and a steel parapet was installed – however the latest inspection revealed extensive deterioration of these areas.

Work is now underway to establish who owns the bridge, but Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council agree they want to see it reopened to the public.

Cllr Robert Boswell, cabinet member for environment at Preston City Council, said: “The bridge is an important heritage site in Preston.

“We need to open it up again. 

“It is a blow to hear about the situation but it is a part of people’s history, it is part of their youth. 

“It was built more than 50 years ago and has been exposed to environment ever since – in one sense it is positive it has lasted so long.”

Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council plan to meet to work out the costs of repairing the bridge – and how it will be paid for.

Cllr Iddon said: “I am looking everywhere I can to get some funding. I want people to use this route to walk or cycle into Preston – it all reduces the carbon footprint.

“The bridge connects people in whatever way they want to travel.”

Would you like to see the Old Tram Bridge reopened? Leave your comments below.

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