Saturday, 22 September 2012

Swing Bridge Update

Well as promised here are the Swing Bridge FAQs.  I posed most of the questions - let me know if you have any other questions to pose that need answers!

Questions and answers

Who has the responsibility to look after the bridge?
The bridge is owned and operated by the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways). Cheshire West and Chester Council, as the Highway Authority, is responsible for maintaining the road surface and for the ability of the structure to carry the heaviest traffic loads. Effectively this means that responsibility is shared with the Canal and River Trust taking the lead.
What condition is the bridge in at the moment?
The bridge is deteriorating and requires work to restore it to its former condition. The two principal issues are the corrosion to the supporting steel work beneath the road deck and the condition of the paint work. The operating mechanism is in reasonably good condition.
What work is planned for the bridge?
The bridge requires extensive refurbishment so that it can continue to carry the heaviest lorries permitted on the road. Work is required to re-deck the bridge, replace some structural steelwork, improve walkways and cycleways and to fully repaint in order to restore its appearance and to protect the bridge fabric from further deterioration.
How much of the works will go to local businesses?
The Canal and River Trust’s framework contractor, May Gurney, is always encouraged to seek prices from local sub-contractors. The works packages which will be undertaken by sub-contractors include:

  • temporary works/scaffold/encapsulation
  • fabrication/structural steelwork repairs/installation
  • superstructure preparation and painting.

This is a competitive process with the selection of sub-contractors dependent on prices submitted.
How long will it take and when will it start?
The exact details of the scheme have not been finalised. We are working on a project that is programmed to last around 10 to 12 months starting in June 2013.
So how will the works be carried out, and how will the traffic flow be maintained?
The bridge will not be closed to traffic and will not swing during the works. As a minimum, one lane of traffic will be retained at all times across the bridge, controlled by temporary traffic signals, whilst the refurbishment work is carried out. At peak hours throughout the project, the signals will be manually controlled to manage the traffic flows more effectively.
Both the Council and the Canal and River Trust recognise the disruption that this will cause. Keeping one lane of traffic over the bridge also makes it more difficult for the contractor and increases the length of time to complete the works. Given this, active consideration is being given to putting in a temporary bridge alongside the existing bridge for the duration of the works. The temporary bridge would carry the traffic with the contractor having full access to the existing bridge.
Are you serious about putting in a temporary bridge?
Yes. The detailed feasibility work is being carried out. But we can not guarantee that this will go ahead. We should know by mid-November 2012 whether this is feasible and practical in terms of cost.
Closing the bridge to road traffic will reduce the time required to carry out the refurbishment by about 10 weeks and initial estimates suggest this will result in a saving of £700,000. The cost of putting in and maintaining a temporary two-lane, full highway specification bridge is being investigated. The Canal and River Trust has given a commitment to publicise the costs when they have been finalised.
What is involved in the feasibility work for a temporary bridge?
This covers many things from sourcing and determining the cost of hiring a temporary bridge through to working out how you would put in the foundations for the temporary bridge - the Clifton Road side of the Navigation is quite tight for space. We also need to find out whether any existing utility services require diverting or protecting. If they do, this clearly would have cost implications.
Are the Emergency Services being consulted about the potential traffic disruption of the bridge works?
Yes. All the blue light services are involved in the planning work which includes making sure that their response times can be met even if there is likely to be traffic disruption during the repair works. This may include stationing emergency services in Frodsham or the surrounding area. These details have not yet been finalised and may depend on whether a temporary bridge is able to be built.
How much will the work cost and who will pay for it?
The final cost of the work is unknown as the exact details of what is required are currently being prepared. The Council and the Canal and River Trust will pay for the works and have budgeted around £4.5m for the work, with around £3.5m of that from Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Why is Cheshire West and Chester Council responsible for paying so much if the responsibilities are shared?
In previous years major schemes of this nature would have benefited from significant grant contributions from the Government. Government funding is no longer allocated in the same way. It is Cheshire West and Chester Council’s responsibility to maintain the bridge so that it can carry the heaviest lorries permitted on the road.
The Canal and River Trust only has an obligation to maintain the bridge to take 24 tonne vehicles. The bridge is strong enough to take 24 tonne vehicles at the moment. Cheshire West and Chester Council has committed to pay a maximum of £3.5m. Any cost overruns on the scheme will fall to the Canal and River Trust to meet.