Monday, 9 July 2012

Mind the gap - Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge

Credit where credit is due - I have to extend my thanks and gratitude to Cllr Lynn Riley and several officers at CWaC for moving with great speed and purpose from February of this year to find the resources that will lead to the Sutton Weaver repair and refurbishment starting in 2013 - fingers crossed!

Lynn and I went to London in February 2012 and met with Graham Evans MP and BW specifically to discuss the swing bridge.  The meeting was full and at times very frank indeed.  (Yes this is code for me challenging BW very hard - but always about the future rather than recriminations about what might have been or what was apparently promised in the past.)  I put some significant efforts into understanding the various legal agreements that regulate the maintenance of that bridge.

It was clear in that meeting that there were differences of understanding and expectation of an agreement dating from 1982 which ostensibly regulated the liability for repairing and maintaining this and other bridges.  The discussions we had led directly to work being done looking specifically at the interpretation of the legal agreements.  This in turn led on to the agreement that has been announced between BW and CWaC regarding the funding of the bridge repair.  Now when you get lawyers, accountants and engineers involved you tend not to expect swift answers but we did.

Pragmatic and practical solutions are always preferable to petty politicking - or worse funding court cases and lawyers' salaries!   We really have to extend our thanks to all concerned for being able to bring the discussions and negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion within 4 months.   Whilst compared to Lynn my role has been comparatively small I do like to think I added more than a little 'grit' into the discussions and a strong sense of realism when it came to considering the historic legal agreements.

I'm sure the vast majority of us locals will just be glad to know that things are moving at last.  There will always be the conspiracy theorists suggesting that there is some skulduggery.  But that is simply profound nonsense.   We have had to navigate a tortuous path - and one where we know for Frodsham's sake we have to have access over the Weaver Navigation - and the existing bridge is in desperate need of refurbishment.

I could write a PhD thesis now about decking plates, weight restrictions and the mistakes made by central government of all colours in not regulating BW properly (from at least the 1960s) when it comes to bridge loading.  It is an absolute nonsense that the legal standard that BW, and indeed Network Rail has to provide for vehicular traffic on their bridges is 21 tonnes.  However even this limit cannot be imposed as the nearest legal weight restriction on a road is 18 tonnes... and as a matter of highway law, and indeed European regulation our roads should be able to take 40 tonne vehicles!  And it is the responsibility of CWaC to ensure that the public highway can take the 40 tonne limit.

Ah well we can look forward to a refurbished bridge - and 9 months of disruption to get there!