drivers face a five month headache as Network Rail prepare to replace Motherwell’s busy Crosshill Street road bridge over the railway line.
The £2 million project, being jointly funded by Network Rail and North Lanarkshire Council, will begin on Friday, March 1, as the UK catches up with European legislation regarding the strength of bridges.
In 1985 it was agreed that all EU countries would allow 40 tonne lorries on its roads, but the UK successfully argued to be allowed to wait until 1999 as it need more time to strengthen its bridges.
And 14 years since 40 tonne lorries began appearing on Britain’s roads Crosshill Street is finally being upgraded as it can only carry 18 tonnes at present.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “There is nothing wrong with the bridge, it’s completely structurally sound, and could probably cary more than 18 tonnes, but we can’t risk it. The EU directives mean we have to make them all stronger in order that they are capable of carrying 40 tonnes so that’s what we are doing.
“We will be leaving the foundations in place, but replacing the steel deck with a concrete one which will give the bridge the required strength.”
The new bridge will be lifted into place on the weekend of May 4/5, but before that can happen there will be a lot or preparatory work to ensure no utilities are attached to the bridge when the old one is removed.
The Network Rail spokesman said: “The problem with bridges is that a lot of things are either put through or attached to them over the years.
“As such we will be working with the utility companies for several weeks to ensure that telephone lines, gas mains, water pipes, etc are dealt with so there is a lot to do before the real construction can begin.”
A footbridge will be in place for pedestrian traffic, but drivers on the north-east side of the closure wishing access to the south-west should head back to Merry Street and then travel along Menteith Road, Brandon Street and Windmillhill Street and in the opposite direction using Wilson Street, Allan Street and Coursington Road to get from Merry Street to the closure.
On the weekend of May 4/5 a shuttle bus will escort pedestrians around the closure as the footbridge will be unavailable, while rail travel will also be affected with no service between Motherwell and Shieldmuir.
The Network Rail spokesman said: “We are working above the railway line so that in itself won’t affected, but on the May 4/5 weekend it would be too dangerous for services to run along the track with a bridge swinging overhead.
“There will be no actual timetable for the shuttle bus, it will just go back and worth as needed.
“We realise this work will have an impact on the town, but try to minimise disruption where we can.”
It’s anticipated the work will be completed on Tuesday, July 23, but the closure could potentially be in place until Sunday, August 9.
The Motherwell Times contacted Scotrail and Virgin who use the piece of affected track, but at this stage both are still preparing for works around the Easter period and have yet to look as far ahead as May.
The closure will have no affect on business at the Tata owned Dalzell Steel Works which is on Crosshill Street.
The plant which send out upwards of 5,000 tonnes of steel every week doesn’t use the bridge as its loads are normally around 25 tonnes so will be sticking with it’s normal routes.
Meanwhile Motherwell and District Local Area Partnership (LAP) has told Network Rail to set the date of a meeting to discuss the town’s pedestrian bridges.
For months the LAP has been concerned about the condition of various railway crossings in Motherwell and has invited a representative of Network Rail to attend its meetings.
The council is able to identify some funds to carry out repairs, but needs permission from Network Rail to do anything.
With its January meeting once again failing to be attended, the LAP has told Network Rail the ball is in their court.
LAP chairman Councillor Peter Nolan said: “We once again made the invitation and once again there was no one accepted it.
“There has been no fall out, but since Network Rail seem too busy to attend our meetings we are happy to let them set the date that suits them and we will take it from there.”