A VICTORIAN listed bridge, which crosses the popular Swindon and Cricklade Railway, may be undergoing a serious facelift – but it will not stop trains running back and forth along the line.
The Grade II listed bridge, thought to be more than 150 years old, is currently being refurbished by Swindon Council as part of a project which has caused the closure of Tadpole Lane for 52 weeks.
Currently, the bridge cuts a lonely figure with the road either side completely missing. But despite the closure and scale of the works taking place, the railway, which is located on the road and at the heart of the building work, has remained open to the public.
Up until two weeks ago, access to the heritage railway’s station was from the Purton direction while the River Bridge was replaced and widened on behalf of Wiltshire Council. Now that work is complete, access is from the Oakhurst direction while work is carried out on the rail bridge.
Dave Peacey, vice chairman of railway’s trustees, said: “The bridge has got a preservation order on it so it can’t be removed.
“Over the past couple of weeks they have been digging equally on either side to stop any movement but in doing so, they found that it was in a worse state of repair than they first thought.
“They are hoping to dig down another metre which will then underpin the bridge and then it will be built up.
“It is hoped that the bridge will reopen to traffic by the end of the year, but because of the weather, the cosmetic side of things is likely to be in the new year.”
Although the railway had to cancel some of its bigger events during the summer due to the work, members of the public are being reminded that it is still open and Halloween and Christmas trains will run as normal.
Dave said: “Because of the nature of the work, we have had to close the bridge for through rail traffic which we fully understand is in our best interests.
“But it just means that we can’t run trains on the newly extended track which runs to Taw Valley.
“All trains running north have not been affected, and the Halloween trains will run as planned, as will the Christmas trains.
“We want to remind people that the access route is now via the Oakhurst estate and that we are open.
“Our visitor numbers have been affected but we expected that.”
Earlier in the year, the railway reported that visitor numbers had fallen by 75 per cent, with just 62 people passing through the gates one weekend, compared to an average of 200 during the same weekend in previous years.