Highways England has backed down over the threatened infilling of a bridge in Dumfries & Galloway which spans an old railway being considered for reopening by the Scottish Government.
In April 2020, the company told the Dumfries and Galloway council that infilling the structure at Lochanhead near Dumfries “is considered necessary to prevent further deterioration and remove the risk of future collapse.”
Local residents, councillors and members of a railway campaign group voiced their concerns to the local authority whose planners had authorised the work as “repair”. But, following an intervention from council officers, Highways England has withdrawn the threat of infilling.
In an email, the company’s engineer said that “we can confirm that we are planning to repair the former overbridge – not infill it. We have been in communication with the team carrying out the Strategic Transport Projects Review and are waiting for further information which will inform the nature of the repairs that we take forward.”
Graeme Bickerdike, a member of The HRE Group – an alliance of engineers, sustainable transport advocates and greenway developers – said: “Whilst the apparent reprieve of Lochanhead bridge is very welcome, it serves only to demonstrate the deceit Highways England has been perpetuating for many months about its infilling programme.
“There are no meaningful engineering, public safety or cost grounds for the damage being inflicted on 134 Victorian structures and we share the view of many civil engineers who have expressed embarrassment and shame at Highways England’s vandalism. The company is pursuing a destructive policy in its own narrow interests, without any consideration of the wider social, economic, environmental and heritage consequences.
“These valuable historic assets should never have been placed in Highways England’s hands.”