PEOPLE calling for a footbridge over a railway line to be reopened have been told it will be at least a year before essential repairs can start – and replacing it would cost around £500,000.
More than 600 people have signed a petition demanding early action to reopen the bridge over the main East Coast line in Cramlington, which provides a direct pedestrian link between the 1,000-home Beaconhill Estate and the town’s Manor Walks shopping centre.
Locals say pensioners and other residents face longer walks along busy routes to get to and from the shops since the 40-year-old footbridge was closed to the public on safety grounds three months ago.
Some elderly people are having to pay for taxis to take them to the town centre and back, it is claimed.
The petition, which has been organised by Beaconhill resident Barry Flux, will be discussed by Northumberland county councillors next week.
However, a report by County Hall officers says it will be at least a year before repair or rebuilding work can start on site because of technical and legal approvals required from Network Rail. It says it will cost about £500,000 if the bridge has to be replaced.
Just over a year ago, an inspection revealed the condition of the bridge was deteriorating, and it was closed to the public in September so that it could be resurfaced and have its deck repaired.
That work was halted when the damage was found to be worse than first thought, and engineers ruled the repairs could not be done without endangering the rail tracks below.
It has been closed since because the extent of the deterioration means it is not safe for people to walk on.
A report to the county council’s south east area committee said no matter if the bridge is repaired or replaced, Network Rail believe it will be at least a year before work can start on site.
Mr Flux said: “The county council needs to press Network Rail and other bodies to find a more speedy solution to the problem. There is a lot of social housing at Beaconhill, and elderly people and those without cars carry their shopping across the footbridge to their homes. The council needs to seriously consider putting on a shuttle bus through the estate.”