Northumberland bridges bid success, but roads funding refused

An old railway bridge in north Northumberland.
An old railway bridge in north Northumberland.
  • Funding of £6.7m to repair 130 bridge masonry arches
  • Action now is estimated to save £60m over the long term
  • Another bid for £43m to repair rural roads was unsuccessful

Northumberland is one of only three authorities in the North East to be successful in one of its bids to the Government for Challenge Funding, allocated for one-off major infrastructure schemes.

The Northumberland scheme is for £6.7million and will see 130 bridge masonry arches repaired across the county. The success of this scheme makes Northumberland County Council one of only 28 councils nationally whose bids have been approved.

The Challenge Fund is aimed at one-off major infrastructure schemes by local authorities to improve life for local residents and businesses.

Northumberland has a higher than average proportion of masonry arch bridges with an average age of more than 170 years. The work will prevent water damage which would significantly improve the condition of the bridges and safeguard their long-term future. Taking action now is estimated to save more than £60million compared to long-term reconstruction costs.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member responsible for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council, said: “This is fantastic news. Our ambitious proposals will help us to improve structures the rural north and west areas in Northumberland – allowing them to be preserved in the long term. Bridges form a vital part of our infrastructure, and by investing in some early intervention work we will be able to save more expensive problems in the future.

“I have to say that am disappointed that our second bid for highway improvements was unsuccessful. This would have helped us to make real improvements to our more rural C and U roads which play a vital role in connecting communities and industries in more remote areas.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, business chairman of the council, added: “This work will help be a great boost the economy in areas across Northumberland. The majority of these bridges are in the more rural areas in the north and west of the county – where the main impact will be felt.”

Northumberland’s other bid, which has been unsuccessful, was for £43million to improve 160km of its rural road network in the north and west of the county over the next three years.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced the successful bids today, saying: “Good quality local roads are essential for people to get on with their daily business and today’s announcement will provide extra capacity where it is needed most. This Government has put record funding in place for local roads as part of our long-term economic plan to improve journeys, create jobs and drive economic growth.”