Work to remove a footbridge that provided a vital link between the two sides of Workington in the wake of Cumbria's devastating floods is taking place this month now it is no longer needed.
Barker Crossing, which was constructed by the Army and opened just 18 days after Workington was split in two by the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in England, reconnected both sides of the town following the destruction of other bridges.
This footbridge was however always a temporary solution and was in put in place until alternative provision could be provided.
On February 14, Workington (Calva) bridge is due to re-open to pedestrians which means there will be the same pedestrian provision over the river even without the Barker Crossing.
The Barker Crossing removal process got underway today (February 7) with enabling works starting on preparing the site for the removal.
However, the bridge is going to remain open to the public for use until February 14, the same day Workington (Calva) re-opens to pedestrians, with the actual extraction being carried out by the Army due to last around three days (with 24-hour working) starting on the week commencing February 21.
During phase one of the extraction process (Feb 7-14), Barepot Road will remain open to access for residents as well as emergency vehicles and a temporary road closure will then be introduced for the physical extraction process over a three day period.
Emergency service cover and special provision for the needs of residents is to be provided as part of the planning for the works following a meeting held with the residents last month.
Despite considerable technical difficulties with the piling works for Workington (Calva) bridge which resulted in several design changes, followed by the severe winter weather in December, the piling works have now been completed. This is a major achievement to 'future proof' the bridge for flooding events in the future and means the bridge is on target and still due to re-open -to pedestrians -in February.
The final opening date - to traffic as well as pedestrians - is now due to be by Easter.
At the very outset, the badly damaged Workington (Calva) bridge had initially been condemned and its collapse was anticipated. For Connect Roads, the council's managing agent for this bridge, however, they were presented with a massive challenge to investigate and determine whether any kind of repair to this historic grade II listed bridge would be possible. No such repair had ever been attempted before as far as the team could ascertain. Before the repair works began on site, the scheme was only given a 50/50 chance of success. Looking back and having come so far with the repairs, it has been a risk worth taking as despite the slippage in the timetable this vital crossing over the River Derwent will be open again more than a year sooner than it would have taken to rebuild the bridge from scratch.
Transport Minister Norman Baker was in Workington last week to see the major progress that has been made in rebuilding the town's transport infrastructure following the devastating floods of November 2009.
Mr Baker's itinerary included trips to Barker Crossing and the Port of Workington where county councillors and senior council officers updated him on the massive strides taken in flood recovery.
Councillor Tony Markley, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member for highways, said: "The flood recovery process, which has been a difficult and drawn out task is now getting to the point where the majority of bridges across Cumbria that were damaged or destroyed have re-opened. Only three carriageway bridges remain closed to traffic now and one of these has been replaced by a temporary bridge.
"The Barker Crossing, especially in the immediate aftermath of the floods, has been a fantastic resource for the people of Workington, and I'd like to personally thank the Army for all their help and unwavering support throughout this process.
"It's great news that Workington (Calva) bridge is going to be opening to pedestrians in the next few weeks and that it is due to be fully open by Easter.
"Once Workington (Calva) is open again to traffic we'll have the same road provision we had over the River Derwent in Workington before the floods and a return to some form of normality."
Lt Col Ray Carolin, Joint Regional Liaison Officer for HQ 42 (North West) Brigade in Preston, who erected and will dismantle the Barker Crossing, said: "The Army has been working closely with Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council and other key Stakeholders to plan for the extraction of the Barker Crossing.
"The intent is to recover the bridge in late February and, through the local authorities, we will ensure that we keep residents fully informed of the activity planned on site.
"Our aim is to ensure that the bridge is removed safely, quickly and with the minimum of inconvenience to nearby residents. We are grateful for their continued patience and cooperation during this process."
Connect Roads' Andy Dean said: "It has always been the aim of Connect Roads and its contractor Balfour Beatty to open the bridge as quickly as possible. We really appreciate the patience and support we have received from the people of Workington, whilst we have overcome the technical difficulties of repairing this famous landmark.
"We look forward to handing back to you, your fully operational bridge, by Easter."
Councillor Tim Heslop, Leader of Allerdale Borough Council, said: "We are proud to be part of the team that helped make Barker Crossing a reality -by making our land available for the temporary footbridge to be built and allowing communities to be reconnected.
"We continue to offer our support to everyone involved in the removal -not least the Army, whose need for the bridge is greater than our own now that Workington (Calva) bridge is reopening to pedestrians. Once the temporary footbridge has been removed we will take the necessary steps to reinstate our land to how it was before."
Media enquiries to media officer John Ballard on 01228 226330.