The arrival of storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin has not just brought high winds and flooding across the UK,
The arrival of storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin has not just brought high winds and flooding across the UK, but has also led to significant infrastructure damage that will necessitate many bridge repairs across the country.
With the Met Office warning that there is more wet and windy weather to come, albeit not as severe as previously, the situation may be worse still within days. Of particular concern is the potential for more rain to raise the level of already swollen rivers further, with defences being erected to hold back floodwaters from the Severn valley to the banks of the Mersey in south Manchester.
The Environment Agency has raised particular concerns about the Severn valley going forward, but when a succession of storms strikes, bridges in many places can also be under threat.
Indeed, footage has already been recorded of an incident in Leeds when a mechanical digger was swept down the River Aire in the wake of Storm Eunice, smashing into a bridge and damaging it. A further report indicated a bridge in the vicinity – of which there are several – collapsed as more debris hit it.
This may end up being just one of many bridges to either be completely demolished or at least significantly damaged by this succession of storms.
Many storms in the recent past have wrought similar destruction. One of the most disruptive was the destruction by Storm Desmond in 2015 of Pooley Bridge in the Lake District, located at the village of the same name at the north-eastern end of Ullswater.
In that incident, torrents escaping from England’s second largest lake into the River Eamont brought down the bridge and in doing so severed the B5320, forcing motorists wanting to make the crossing to undertake huge diversions via Penrith before a temporary bridge could be installed, pending a replacement resembling the lost stone predecessor.
Desmond had been particularly harsh on Cumbria, with the Keswick Railway Path bridge also a victim. That path has now, however, benefited from a major restoration project that has not just restored but enhanced the old route.
For many bridges, however, the issue will not be of outright replacement, but significant repair, with new concrete and grouting being used to fix damaged structures, ensuring they are safe to carry people, traffic and trains as well as being able to endure future storms.
While the recent severe weather will have prompted a number of bridge repairs and outright replacements, work has also been taking place for months on the restoration of an iconic and historic bridge across the Tweed where it forms the border between England and Scotland.
As the Scotsman reported, the Union Bridge, which was first built in 1820, was dismantled last year and is now being put back together again, with the first of its 13 chains now back in place. It is expected to reopen later this year.
Located four miles upstream from Berwick-upon-Tweed, the bridge was completed shortly before Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge between Anglesey and the British mainland in North Wales, making it the first and, briefly, the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge capable of carrying traffic, a title later held by the Humber Bridge from 1981 to 1997.