Report by John Horton, Photos and video Carl Hudson, Jamie Horton and John Horton
Today (May 30) marked the removal of a landmark from Westgate Railway Station.
The cast iron footbridge, which has served passengers for over 124 years, was taken away by Bam Engineering in partnership with Network Rail.
The work, which follows the installation of a new bridge earlier this month, was done under in manageable sections, starting with the centre link span, weighing in at 12.5 tons, followed by the steps on the “Up Side”, then the steps on the “DownSIde”, each weighing in at 4.5 tons a piece.
Built in 1896 by Victorian engineers, the metal work took a great deal of cutting and the craftsmanship of the original builder was evident.
A crowd, with social distancing being observed, gathered to see the initial link span lift along Westbury Road and up on St Mildred’s Road Bridge. The span was lifted with expert precision, by the crane operator and guidance from his banksman. The 12 ton section was lifted high over the properties in Station Road and down onto an awaiting flatbed lorry.
One of the crew said: “It’s a sad day but also an exciting one, as we remove a grand piece of engineering of the Victorian age.
“We can fully appreciate all that went into its construction, the quality of the workmanship and precision, using tools we have never seen in our lifetime yet as good as those we use today in the digital age.
“We don’t enjoy seeing beauties such as these disappearing from our heritage, but there comes a time when you have to consider the cost of upkeep and repairs to keep them operable. Health and Safety is of course paramount and we are governed by new rules and legislation which we have to abide with.
“Sadly this grand old girl just wasn’t in line with the guidance and the costs of bringing things up to date or renewing them is weighed up, sometimes complete renewal is the only answer.
“The wood was still in good condition and that added to the overall weight of the removed sections. We wonder how long this bridge will last, hopefully a very long time indeed.”
The legs were the last sections to be removed, being cut at their bases and lifted up and over into an awaiting industrial recycling bin.
The area left by removal of the bridge will not be wasted – on the up side, Westbury Road, a new access ramp will be built down to platform level, culminating at the side of the recently refurbished waiting room.
On the down side, Station Road, a further ramp will be installed from the former access path to the bridge down to platform level.
The footing for these new projects has already been dug out ready for reinforcing bars to be laid and the concrete poured.
Work is expected to take around two weeks to complete.
The new footbridge, installed two weeks ago, has been fitted with fluorescent lighting at waist height and should fully illuminate the stairwells and walkway.