Highways England to restore Victorian bridge

Highways England is to restore a disused railway bridge in Oxfordshire after plans to demolish it caused an outcry.

The government-owned company said the restoration of the structure ‘will ensure its continued use for local residents in the future, whilst preserving an important piece of British heritage’.

The bridge was built in the mid-nineteenth century - during the reign of Queen Victoria - as part of the Princes Risborough to Oxford line and was in use until the 1960s when a decline in passengers led to a decommissioning of the line.

It said ‘recent’ surveys of the 19th century bridge had revealed a number of structural concerns, including the ongoing deterioration of the bridge parapets, or walls.

‘The damage worsened over time and the bridge continued to lean and fracture, which led the team to remove the parapets and close the bridge in February due to safety concerns,’ it added.

Highways England said that with this now complete, its Historical Railways Estate (HRE) and Oxfordshire County Council have teamed up to plan a complete renovation of the bridge and restore the parapets using the original bricks that were taken down as part of the emergency work.

Matthew Irwin, HRE civil engineer, said: ‘We are delighted that this work has been confirmed and we will soon set about restoring the bridge for the residents of Horspath to enjoy in the future. We have been and will continue to work closely with the local community are looking forward to starting the work as soon as we can.'

Peter Dobson, chairman of Horspath Parish Council, said: ‘Horspath Bridge has been a very important asset to the village for many years and the residents of Horspath value its presence as a wildlife corridor, aid to traffic calming and part of Horspath’s history.’

Highways England said the project to restore the bridge had ‘attracted huge interest from the residents of Horspath’.

In February, the Oxford Mail reported that local residents were protesting after the bridge was closed at short notice and it was discovered that Highways England planned to demolish the bridge, under controversial plans for the HRE.

The paper said that it had ‘rarely, if ever, seen the amount of emails and messages about a single subject in one day’.

Restoration work will include removing any vegetation and root access that is causing damage, as well as work on the bridge itself, including repairs to the joints, arches and arch rings. Work is expected to start later this year.

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