Bridge at fault for town disruptions

Whitby Swing Bridge Closure
Whitby Swing Bridge Closure

FRUSTRATED residents needing to cross Whitby’s Swing Bridge yesterday morning (2 June) were forced to make a 3-mile detour after the bridge broke down in its “open” position.

Businesses were left fearing the worst as tourists visiting the town found themselves stranded, unable to cross from one side of the town to the other.

Ian Bradley, from The Dolphin pub on Bridge Street, said: “It is absolutely devastating.

“It has been a busy week, the first we have seen in months.

“I can’t say any other words, it’s devastating.

“At the end of the day they are doing their best, but it comes down to the old thing, they should be shutting the bridge to traffic.”

Contract engineers were contacted immediately by Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) and their advice followed, but the bridge could not be resurrected and engineers from Nottingham and Middlesbrough were sent for, meaning there was no quick fix to the problem.

Coun Ken Graham said: “Businesses on the east side have expressed grave concerns to me regarding the reliability of the bridge and the effect it is having on their business.

“Several prominent businesses on the east side have told me that they have still not recovered from the bridge breakdown last year, they could under no circumstances afford another break down at this time of the year.”

The bridge had been opened at 6.30am to allow river traffic to pass through, but bridge operatives found they were unable to return it to the closed position.

Concerns have been steadily growing for the health of the 102-year-old structure and a 7.5 tonne weight restriction has recently been put in place, but Coun Graham said that if the Swing Bridge is to be saved, this weight limit won’t be enough.

He added: “The weight restriction is a wasted exercise, as it is not weight that is causing the malfunctions, it is the excessive opening and shutting of the bridge that is wearing the machinery.

“I proposed that the bridge times should be reduced by half to hourly openings, hence doubling the life of the machinery and halving the chance of a breakdown.

“This would also help to promote the circulation of visitors who have money in their pockets waiting to be spent, instead of being held up during bridge openings.”

Council staff were able to respond quickly to the break down as they followed a contingency plan which was put in place following last year’s break down.

North Yorkshire County Council set up road closure signs and SBC put a free shuttle bus into operation.