On 22 January, we received an email update from Mhairi Threlfall, the Bristol city councillor with cabinet responsibility for transport
I met Mhairi for the first time at a Council meeting on Monday 15th January (the day after the Save the Bridge rally). I asked her to clarify what progress had been made, and also to find out if the bridge could be opened to pedestrians while scaffolded. In her email, she says: “Thanks for your email – wonderful to see so many people turn up to your event! I have some responses to your supplementary questions.” Here are those answers…
In terms of phases 1-4:
Progress is being made with phase 1 and many elements of phases 2 and 3. It would appear these are delayed but we are expecting to bring these phases into realization in February. This means we are approximately 6 to 8 weeks delayed. This has partly been attributed to unforeseen delays on having to get listed consent for simple elements e.g. undertaking core samples of the rock face supporting the bridge. Therefore, moving in to phase 4 in March/April which is dependent on the outcomes of the previous phases.
Officers will continue to put pressure on the consultant undertaking the brief. This will then present itself with a final cost. I think Don said, that there is no identified budget to undertake phase 5 at the moment (partially due to not knowing the cost/results of the previous phases) for delivery and completion.
1) Is it really necessary to close the walkway over the bridge with scaffolding?
The bridge strike has hit one the primary structural arch members which actual hold the bridge in place. If we were to remove the scaffold the bridge is liable to immediate failure. This is why when this was initially reported the bridge and road was closed immediately and the emergency scaffold put in place. like any arch it is only as strong as its complete structure. If you remove a section of any arch the whole arch is liable to collapse. The scaffold across the top is designed to carry the weight of the bridge and secure the bridge in place to stop it from falling on to the road. The only alternative <to make the bridge accessible by pedestrians> I am afraid would be to build a bigger structural scaffold directly under the bridge and close the road. At the moment it is not safe to cross: the scaffolding is there to prevent the bridge collapsing onto the road, it does not provide safe crossing, only below scaffolding could do that.
2) Is the proposed solution (to raise the height of the bridge) due to siloed thinking (i.e. the structures crew are looking for a structures solution)? Wouldn’t it be cheaper and better to lower the road?
No, this has been considered by all the Highways maintenance group team managers. This is the agreed the most suitable and economic solution to repair and mitigate further damage to the bridge . We are already aware the lower layers of the road are contaminated therefore it would be extremely expensive to remove, and all utilities in the road e.g. gas mains, water pipes will all require lowering which would also be at significant cost.
3) Given the development of the new M49 junction at Easter Compton is there scope to take up the issue of trucks from the fuel depot at Hallen passing through the estates of Bristol?
My understanding is that there are environmental weight limits around the depot to encourage the trucks to take a more suitable route. Unfortunately this can only be enforced by the police and therefore it might be prudent for the local councillors to consider using their influence to obtain some police enforcement or speak with the depot.
The depot and the junction are both in South Gloucester so I will pick this up with my counterpart in SG to see if the travel planning or traffic team can assist in working with the depot in getting the message out as must affect the Hallen Village in their area, although I have been informed the junction is some way from completion.
Mhairi also offered to provide monthly updates on progress, so I will be following up with her in mid Feb.