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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Plans shelved for new bridge

HOPES of Ovingham Bridge being replaced in the near future have been dashed.

It was anticipated that Northumberland County Council would bid for funding for the task through the Government’s Pinch Point Fund, set up to ease traffic jams and improve safety.

However, county councillor for Prudhoe West, Neil Bradbury, has confirmed the bid will only be for £2.4m to “massively overhaul” the bridge, ensuring it does not degrade.

Recent studies have suggested that otherwise the 130-year-old structure would be at risk being closed in the coming years.

The bridge provides the only vehicular crossing over the River Tyne between Bywell and Wylam and supports about 5,000 cars daily as a gateway for commuters accessing the A69.

However, its narrow single-lane structure means huge traffic jams can form at rush hour – and numerous surveys with a view replacing it have come to nothing.

Coun. Bradbury said the council was making a larger bid than would otherwise have been the case because of his insistence the overhaul be carried out quickly through round-the-clock working to minimise disruption.

“I really welcome the news that this bid has been made a high priority, but am obviously concerned that the bridge’s condition has deteriorated,” he said.

“I still think that in the long-term the Tyne needs a new crossing to link Prudhoe with the A69, away from Ovingham, but the projected £25m cost of that scheme clearly means it is some years off. In the meantime, it is crucial the existing bridge, a lifeline, is available.”

County council leader, Coun. Jeff Reid, said: “£25m is a lot of money and while replacing Ovingham Bridge might be one of our priorities, we would clearly need a lot of Government help to do it.

“I would imagine the chances of getting £2.4m to overhaul and squeeze a bit more life out of the bridge would be a good bit higher.”

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