A Bridge too Far?

As you might have seen in the media or online, Highways England (yes, we were surprised too) have plans to infill two bridges in Dumfries and Galloway that cross disused railway lines: one at Kirtlebridge near Annan, and one at Lochanhead very close to the A711 and a few miles west of Dumfries.

Lochanhead Bridge
Looking up at the arch of the bridge at Lochanhead

According to Highways England, the bridges need repairing so they can carry modern levels of traffic, which seems fair enough, and Dumfries and Galloway council have told them that they don’t need planning permission to carry out repairs, effectively giving them the go ahead.

Unfortunately, by ‘repair’ what Highway England means is ‘infilling’, which looks like this (according to New Civil Engineer magazine, this work cost £129,000 (simply repointing the bridge might have been closer to £5,000):

Great Musgrave Bridge in Cumbria, after ‘repairs’. Two heritage railways could have been joined using this route, but not any more.

Now, we’re a cycle campaign, not a railway group but we’d love to see the Dumfries – Stranraer line reopen, not just because it would open up a lot of wonderful bike+train adventures, but because it would take a lot of traffic off our roads, cutting carbon emissions and leaving more room for cycling, wheeling and walking within our towns and villages. so this morning a couple of us went down to have a closer look.

The bridge at Lochanhead crosses the bed of the old railway line as it runs alongside the Dalbeattie Road near Beeswing, through a narrow valley just north of Mabie Forest.

Looking down from Mabie at the Dalbeattie Road and the old railway line (hidden by the trees) – there’s really no other place for the line to go.

Even if there were no plans to bring back the railway – or if another route was chosen – then the track bed would make a brilliant cycle path, cutting out both the dangers of the A711 and the climb (and gravel) of the route through Mabie Forest. Similarly, plans to infill the Kirtlebridge bridge would not just cut off a local farmer from some of his fields, but would prevent the extension of paths using the old railway line from Annan.

The road that the bridge carries is a tiny back route – we cycled the length of the road this morning and didn’t see a single vehicle, just one other cyclist. It seems massive overkill to destroy a potential sustainable transport link just to make sure that this road can carry a 44 tonne lorry:

This is the road the bridge supports – it doesn’t need to be engineered to carry massive amounts of traffic.

If you are as worried about these plans as we are then there are a few things you can do.

  • The easiest is to sign this petition (set up by the HRE Group) – and there’s also now a parliamentary petition against the entire scheme (with bridges under threat across the UK).
  • You can also write to your local councillors and your MSPs (you can do so via Write to Them) to ask for their support locally and to encourage them to protect these key assets for sustainable transport – here and elsewhere. We’ve already seen Emma Harper and Finlay Carson expressing their support, but it’s important to let them know that this is important to you.
  • You can also sign the petition to reopen the Dumfries – Stranraer line – something that’s under consideration by the Scottish Government.
  • Please also spread the word to let people know this is a problem – a lot of people have seen that this is a plan by Highways England and assumed it’s not an issue here – share this post and the links to the petitions as widely as you can

Thanks to the HRE Group and to the Reopening the Dumfries-Stranraer Railway group for bringing this issue to our attention.

4 thoughts on “A Bridge too Far?”

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