Highways England accused of 'vandalism' after bridge infilled with concrete

The arches of the Great Musgrave Bridge have been infilled with concrete for safety reasons. Credit: ITV Border

Highways England is being accused of "vandalism" after pouring concrete into the arches of a historic Cumbrian bridge.

How the Great Musgrave Bridge looked before the arches were infilled. Credit: Paul Whitewick

The decision to fill in the bottom of the Great Musgrave Bridge near Warcop was taken due to safety reasons, but heritage rail campaigners, like Sue Jones, claim it just needed small repairs.

Sue and other volunteers at Stainmore Railway Company run trains on a small section of old track and would have liked one day to see the full reopening of the Kirkby Stephen to Warcop line. 

Campaigners say it would have been far cheaper to repoint the structure.

Highways England say they consulted Eden Valley Railway Company, a local councillor and Railway Paths Limited and were told there were no plans for a walking or cycling route at the location.

They say they also spoke to Eden Valley and Stainmore Railway Company who confirmed that there were no immediate plans for a heritage railway link at Great Musgrave, due to the missing river bridge further along the line.

Highways England Historical Railways Estate Director, Richard Marshall said:    

“We need to carry out this work for safety reasons. The bridge was deteriorating, and no weight restriction was in place, meaning it could be used by vehicles of any weight. The support provided by infilling the arch removes the risk of the bridge deck from failing. This means a weight limit is no longer required and the bridge will remain safe for everyone who wishes to use it. 

Highways England say they are currently working at Hill Cottage bridge in the Lake District to partially infill the bridge and leave an opening for a potential future heritage railway.

Highways England are currently working on partially infilling Hill Cottage bridge in the Lake District. Credit: Highways England

Overall their team of engineers is working to assess and repair more than 3,000 structures in the Historical Railways Estate.