The HRE Group, a campaign group made up of engineers and railway officials, has urged Transport Minister Baroness Vere to call a halt to the infilling of Great Musgrave bridge in Cumbria.
In a letter to Baroness Vere, the group said independent research revealed that all evidence suggests that the bridge is in a ‘fair condition’ and there was no evidence of collapse risk or defects resulting from ‘live loads’.
The report said that the bridge was not weak at the time of infill, presented no threat to public safety and to suggest that it was at risk of collapse was “preposterous”.
The Great Musgrave bridge infilling has now been seeded with grass, reports New Civil Engineer.
In the letter HRE Group spokesperson Graeme Bickerdike claims that the BHA report “forensically dismantles the case for infilling Great Musgrave bridge”.
Bickerdike adds: “£124K of taxpayers’ money was absolutely wasted. That National Highways could so comprehensively misrepresent the threat posed by the structure should be a matter of concern to everyone.”
He continues: “[National Highways] actions around the infilling of Great Musgrave bridge were clumsy, disreputable and suggest questionable competence.
“We regard this as unacceptable and the matter needs to be put right. We ask that you instruct the company to withdraw its planning application for the retention of the infill at Great Musgrave bridge and instead restore the structure to its previous state as it is obliged to do.”
The infilling of the 160-year-old bridge also effectively ended longstanding plans to establish a link between two heritage railways in Cumbria’s Eden Valley.
National Highways head of Historical Railways Estate programme Hélène Rossiter said: “We carefully considered several options to strengthen the bridge at Great Musgrave from a 17t to 44t weight limit, making sure we engaged with planners at the relevant local authority to make them aware of our work and ensuring all relevant processes were followed. We determined that the infill was crucial to the safety of the public, and making future use of the structure viable.”
She added: “The HRE Group sit on our Stakeholder Advisory Forum but haven’t shared the [BHA] report with us and we don’t know what information was used to form opinions, so we’re not able to comment on it. However, our thorough internal review determined infilling was vital to public safety, and preserving the structure until a long-term purpose is found. We’ve committed to reversing it if a viable future use for the track bed beneath the bridge is found, that has all necessary approvals and is ready to be delivered.”
(Picture – HRE Group)