Whose lorry hit the bridge? Why isn’t their insurance paying for its repair?

Unfortunately, nobody knows the identity of the high-sided lorry that hit the bridge back in November 2015. The driver did not stop, and the vehicle’s registration number was not taken by any witnesses, so there is no way of claiming the damage from the perpetrator’s insurance.

Can’t Bristol City Council claim from their own insurance?

Our understanding is that BCC is not insured against incidents like this. The cost of insuring all the city’s structures against accidental damage would be very high, so most are not insured and repairs are dealt with as required. This is not specific to BCC, but commonplace throughout the UK.

The bridge is a public footpath and a right of way. Surely the council is obliged to reopen it?

Our understanding is that the council is legally obliged to maintain a public right of way, or provide a reasonable alternative if the original path is unsafe. However there is no specific limit on how quickly the council must reinstate a footpath. The council’s current position is that the bridge is unsafe for pedestrians, and that an alternative, safer route across the road has been established. Most locals strongly disagree.

Why is it taking so long?

A number of reasons, none insurmountable:

  • Budget. The council is under widespread financial pressure due to central government cuts, and is looking to make savings wherever it can. However, the budget for the investigation into the bridge repair has been approved and needs to be spent in the current financial year (ending April 2018). The budget for the actual repair has not yet been allocated as costs are not known. This is likely to be a key issue for the campaign over the coming months.
  • Resources. The bridge is grade II listed so needs to be repaired in keeping with conservation regulations. The council doesn’t have the technical skills in-house so has appointed a private contractor, CH2M, to do the investigative work. More crucially, the council’s in-house team responsible for Bristol’s bridges consists of two people. For the whole of Bristol. So this project has been repeatedly bumped in favour of other, apparently more urgent tasks, elsewhere. This is an ongoing risk.
  • Political will. Ultimately, getting the bridge repaired requires senior management and politicians at Bristol City Council to consider it a priority. So far, this has not been the case. We have had over two years of inactivity, delays and empty promises. A main objective of the Save the Bridge campaign is to maintain constant pressure on the Council so that they know how important the bridge is to locals.

How can I help?

If you haven’t already, please join our Facebook group. The more members we have, the bigger a voice.

As of January 2018, the Council is going ahead with its investigation work into the repair; this investigation is due to be complete by April 2018. Councillor Mhairi Threlfall will give this group a monthly update on progress, which will be posted here and on the Facebook page.

Once we know the outcome of the investigation (spring 2018), there will be decisions to be made about the proposed repair solution, budget and timing. Through the group, we want everyone to be able to have their say.