Engineers and contractors working on the repair of Rock Park Bridge are investigating an option to lift off the existing bridge deck.
It follows a decision by the team working on the former railway bridge that it was not safe to prop the structure while a defective column is repaired.
Lifting the bridge deck would enable an assessment to be carried out safely to explore the possibility of repairing the defective columns in the river. The lift would be a challenging operation, requiring the use of very large cranes on either side of the river, but it is the preferred option to try to save the original bridge in its current form.
Provided the two bridge decks can be removed, the column could potentially be repaired using the same methodology carried out by Devon County Council two years ago at Shaldon Bridge, in South Devon, where a similar repair was undertaken.
Rock Park Bridge was closed for safety reasons in May last year after a routine underwater inspection found structural defects with two supporting columns in the river channel.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for bridges, said: “We’re aware there is a lot of public interest in this project and a desire to retain the bridge in its current form. An extensive exploration of all of the repair options is being explored to try and protect the bridge deck and safely carry out a repair of the defective columns. Replacing the two spans with a single span bridge is not currently the preferred option but it’s something we may have to consider if the columns can’t be repaired. If this is the case it would require planning permission and a full consultation will take place. We will keep everyone updated as we find out more.”
Councillor John Mathews, Devon County Councillor for Barnstaple South, said: “Rock Park Bridge is part of Barnstaple’s history and the team working on the project recognises that and are doing all they can to repair the columns. Working on old metal structures is never easy, but they have assured me they will explore all avenues and do everything possible to try to salvage the bridge decks. And when the new pedestrian bridge from the Larkbeare development over the A361 is in situ and joins up with the Rock Park Bridge this will greatly enhance the pedestrian/cycle way around Barnstaple.”
A signed diversion for pedestrians and cyclists remains in place via Barnstaple Long Bridge.