£16 million for urgent repairs to Bristol bridges

Sparke Evans Bridge is pictured through trees, with leave sin the foreground.
Sparke Evans Bridge

Bristol is a city of around 50 bridges and we all rely on them. Whether it is to marvel at the views across Clifton Suspension Bridge or to cross the harbour, they are an intrinsic part of the city.

Over the years, many of these bridges have been neglected. We inherited a legacy of underinvestment, which this administration promised to reverse.

On Tuesday 6 June, proposals will be presented to Cabinet that put forward a rolling programme of works to six further bridges along the New Cut that are all in need of structural repairs.

We have already secured £16 million from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement, administered by the West of England Combined Authority, to invest in our vital infrastructure. Work is well underway with the restoration of the first bridge in the series, Gaol Ferry Bridge. The final two sections of the footbridge are being repaired and painted by our contractor, Griffiths, before we reopen it in the coming months.

Gaol Ferry Bridge

The £1.5 million essential works have included replacing the structural steelwork and rotten timbers, repairing the steel lattice work and some stonework, and repainting it. It is already looking great, and we can’t wait to reopen it so people can start using it again to access all the businesses at Wapping Wharf, M Shed and beyond.

Once these repairs are complete, we will start work on the next bridge in the programme, Sparke Evans Bridge. We have moved this to the top of the list as our inspections have shown it is in urgent need of structural repairs, and already began feasibility and inspection work. 

Built in 1933, it is a footbridge that crosses the River Avon, linking the Paintworks development with Sparke Evans Park in St Philips. While it is being repaired, we will need to fully close the footbridge to the public. We’re aiming to start the work soon and have budgeted between £1.5 million and £2 million for its full refurbishment. When it is closed we can properly assess its condition as we will be able to remove the decking and finalise a detailed programme of repairs. 

Sparke Evans Bridge

Once finished, as before, we’ll move onto the next bridge on our list, which includes Vauxhall Bridge, Langton Street Bridge (also known as the Banana Bridge), the twin bridges of Bedminster Bridge, and Bath Bridge.

On top of all these harbour bridges that need to be repaired, our inspections have highlighted that two important structures – New Brislington Bridge and Saint Philips Causeway – are also in need of major structural repairs. That’s why cabinet will be asked to agree to invest a total of £1 million on condition assessments, plans of work, and costing proposals. The outcome of these two feasibility studies will help us to decide the long-term future of these structures and agree potential funding bids to the Department for Transport.

While on the subject of bridges, at June’s cabinet we will also discuss a report that sets out our plans to restore the Kingsweston Iron Bridge. This Grade II listed cast iron footbridge was built around 1800 and spans Kingsweston Lane, linking Blaise Castle Estate to Kingsweston Fields.

We had to close it in 2015 after a series of strikes by trucks made the bridge unstable and unsafe. Since then, it has been secured and propped up by scaffolding, while we find a long-term solution that is sensitive to its historic nature. The good news is that our planning application – to raise Kingsweston Lane Bridge by just over a metre, add steps at either end and fully restore it – has been approved. That means, with cabinet approval, we can work up our £1 million plans to dismantle the bridge and repair it off-site and reinstate it, at a raised height, using money from our Highway Infrastructure Bridge Investments fund.

Gaol Ferry Bridge under construction

I know everyone who has missed using this handy footbridge will welcome the news that we have a plan of action to restore it to its former glory.

Not only do all these bridges keep the city connected, but they are important in helping people travel actively by walking and cycling, which will help us in our goal to cut congestion and reduce pollution from transport.

We’ll keep you updated as plans for all our bridge repairs continue to take shape.