I have to say the 90 year old bridge was looking in fine fettle after its £4.5m restoration project. It has had a whole new road deck - with the hardest wearing grade of road surface laid above it. The pontoon on which it sits has been repaired - this involved men having to work 15 feet beneath the water level. All the old electrics and hydraulics have been serviced, and, if course it has had a brand new paint job that should last at least 15 years before it needs a touch up. The bridge weighs around 500 tons (yes the old imperial sort)
I discussed the new road layout with CWaC's highway engineers - they showed me the new arrangements on the Sutton Weaver side where, although the traffic lights are being restored the lane from Frodsham to the motorway will be governed by a give way sign - hopefully to allow freer traffic movements out of Frodsham. The traffic islands have been altered to allow for easier movements by HGVs over the junction. The engineers discussed possibly setting back the stop line for traffic coming down from Sutton Weaver and wishing to turn right to the motorway so as to give greater clearance for vehicles wishing to travel from Frodsham to Sutton Weaver. If that is to happen, that tweak will be made in a few weeks time.
In celebration of the bridge re-opening we had a short procession of a modern and an old truck supported by Helsby and Longden's vintage bus, a three wheeler car and an old Ambulance. The bridge was then swung and a flotilla of small craft rowed and tooted their way under the bridge and back. I have to say it was marvellous watching the bridge swing. It looked effortless - a tribute to the skilfulness of the original design and its refurbishment.
The bridge was officially re-opened by Graham Evans MP, and we had speeches from him, Cllr Lynn Riley, George Ballinger Head Engineer Canals and Rivers Trust and Richard Parry the Chief Executive of the Canals and Rivers Trust. Each speaker remarked on the difficulties that had be-set the project to begin with and harked back to the meeting that Graham Evans had hosted in Parliament and where Lynn and I thrashed out some of the difficulties with George and looked to find solutions.
There was reference also to the public meeting I had chaired for the Frodsham businesses where we were able to persuade the Canals and Rivers Trust that they had to put in a temporary bridge if Frodsham wasn't to grind to a halt. One only has to remember the nightmare visited on us last week with the United Utilities road works on the A56 to realise just how important it was to get that particular decision right too.
It was the partnership working that was established from the meting in Parliament that set the project on the right foot going forward. To begin with CWaC had to fund c£3.5m of the £4.5m cost - although we were able to persuade the government to make a £1.777m contribution towards the scheme effectively meaning its repair costs were funded by three partners.
A big thank you to everyone involved and especially to Kier the contractor and their engineers who actually carried out the refurbishment.
Fingers crossed that all goes well when the traffic resumes this weekend.
|The new road surface is the highest grade - as you'd find on trunk roads, the left filter lane is slightly wider than before|
|George Ballinger Hd Engineer C&RT|
|Richard Parry Chief Exec C&RT|
|Cllr Lynn Riley|
|Graham Evans MP|
|The grand re-opening: Graham Evans MP, Cllr Lynn Riley and Richard Parry C&RT Chief Executive|
|First we had old and new lorries, a bus, a three wheeler and an ambulance cross the bridge|
|Helsby & Longden's vintage bus|
|A three wheeler followed by a 1950s Austin Princess Ambulance|
|Then the first ceremonial swinging of the bridge - the new stop lights|
|The new barrier|
|The first official swing!|
|The flotilla of narrow boats, rowing boats etc|
|as the boats sailed by - we spotted the tins of paint - a few bits of touching-up are required over the next 24 hours|
|Old technologies are sometimes the best - the old megaphone|
|The C&RT Engineering Team|
|Richard Parry in the control box|
|There are two commemorative plaques!|
|Celebrating a good job, well done!|