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New River Ribble bridge between Preston Docks and Penwortham still ‘distant idea’

Posted on - 17th July, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fylde News, Politics, Preston News, Roads, South Ribble News, Transport
Beautiful sunset down on the River Ribble. Pic@ryanbdawson

A new bridge to connect Preston Docks to Penwortham remains just an idea at this stage.

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The government would need to stump up most of the cash for the long-dreamt-of structure over the River Ribble.

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That was the message from Lancashire highways bosses after they were asked about the prospect of a new western crossing between Lea and Penwortham following the opening of the Preston Western Distributor Road last week.

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The bridge has long been floated as a possibility as part of a vision to create an uninterrupted dual carriageway between the A582 at Cuerden and the M55 at Bartle, via the Penwortham bypass – which would funnel traffic making that journey away from Preston city centre and the surrounding area and so reducing congestion.

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Back in 2019, an independent study put a new cross-river connection at the heart of its recommendations for how to improve travel in and around Preston.

The Preston City Transport Plan cautioned against dismissing the idea as too ambitious, suggesting that the bridge would be the final piece in the puzzle to create a coherent ring road around the city – enabling new and widened routes either side of the river to join up with the M55 to the north and the M6 to the east.

The completion of the Preston Western Distributor – now officially known as Edith Rigby Way – was a key part of making a new crossing worthwhile.

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With that £207m route now having been delivered, Lancashire County Council has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the bridge project was still an ambition on the horizon – but warned that it may be a distant one.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “A new River Ribble crossing remains an aspiration and a feasibility study was undertaken, funded by the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.

“A new crossing is feasible, but the scale of the cost would require substantial funding from central government. We continue to monitor funding opportunities, as and when they become available.”

Another element of the overall vision – the dualling of the A582 between the A6 at Cuerden and the Broad Oak roundabout in Penwortham – is also yet to be realised.

While some sections of the road have been widened in preparation for that overarching project, there has been no news of when – or whether – that entire stretch will be turned into a dual carriageway.

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The uncertainty surrounding the scheme was a key point of contention in last year’s public inquiry into plans to build 1,100 homes on the Pickering’s Farm site in Penwortham, with South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster declaring that the sprawling development should not go ahead unless or until the A582 is dualled.

The outcome of the three-week inquiry into the proposal is expected to be announced this summer, but at the hearing last August, Cllr Foster said that there was little prospect of the cash being found for the road project in either “the medium or long term”.

At last week’s Preston Western Distributor opening, senior figures involved in the City Deal – the infrastructure-generating initiative that funded that route and which is also the only planned source of funding for the A582 dual carriageway works in South Ribble – denied that the cost of Edith Rigby Way had put paid to the widening scheme south of the river.

Other suggestions within the Preston City Transport Plan, which put such store by a new Ribble bridge, are coming to fruition, nearly five years after the document’s publication – including the pedestrianisation of much of the northern section of Friargate and the creation of segregated cycle lanes in the city, like the one recently installed on Ringway.

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

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