The bridge that carries the Bristol & Bath Railway Path and the steam railway over the A431 at Willsbridge will close for up to eight weeks for girder repairs after it was hit by a vehicle that flouted the height restriction.
The bridge has been at the centre of debate after the 14ft 3in advice signs were changed to warning ones which means taller vehicles – including double-deckers – are not allowed underneath. It led to First re-routing the 42 bus.
This week the council said that because of the history of knocks, it wouldn’t be safe to increase the signed height as it would put lives at risk.
A spokesperson told us: “The measured height of the bridge is 14ft 8in and the standard for signing requires us to reduce that by three inches (to 14ft 5in) to allow for clearance, with a further rounding down to the nearest multiple of three inches (to 14ft 3in) to allow for height variation caused by vehicles braking or accelerating under the bridge.
“The previous signage, in the form of a warning triangle, also gave a height of 14ft 3in but there were multiple occasions when this was ignored and the bridge was hit and damaged, causing traffic delay and expense through road closures, inspection and repair.
“The bridge was hit again most recently in February by a driver who ignored the mandatory height signage. Anyone driving a vehicle over 14ft 3in under the bridge is liable to be prosecuted by the police and may not only cause damage to the bridge but also put lives in danger.”
The council is planning repairs to the most recent damage but assures people that the bridge is safe. The work, most likely to happen early next year, will require road closures and the closures of the Railway Path and Avon Valley Railway, left, for up to eight weeks.
The news will come as a blow to cyclists in particular who have already endured months of disruption. They were diverted via Keynsham and Saltford during the recent closure of the Railway Path between Bitton and Saltford while bridge work at Staple Hill led to that section being closed for over six months.
James Freeman, managing director of First, said this week: “The current sign on the bridge stating the height of 14ft 3in is legally binding and we must abide by it.”