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Action over swing bridges

PUBLISHED: 11:17 23 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:50 03 July 2010

NETWORK Rail could face legal action for failing to properly maintain and operate four19th- century swing bridges on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

The Broads Authority has said it could possibly seek legally binding undertakings or injunctions to make sure that the problems at Trowse, Reedham, Somerleyton and Oulton Broad bridges do not continue to affect boat users.

NETWORK Rail could face legal action for failing to properly maintain and operate four19th- century swing bridges on the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.

The Broads Authority has said it could possibly seek legally binding undertakings or injunctions to make sure that the problems at Trowse, Reedham, Somerleyton and Oulton Broad bridges do not continue to affect boat users.

Last year there were 178 reports of problems with the four bridges restricting boat users on the Broads because of problems with obsolete computer systems preventing them from opening to vessels.

In a bid to solve the swing bridge difficulties, the Broads Authority is to meet with Network Rail bosses on February 10 to try to resolve the situation.

If the discussions fail to come up with a solution, the Broads Authority says it will consider taking legal action to make the rail company comply with its obligations to open the ageing swing bridges to boats.

Angie Leeper, the authority's waterways strategy officer, said that because of the number of problems and their severity, an injunction could be sought against Network Rail as a last resort.

Another option would be for Network Rail to sign a legally binding undertaking.

Network Rail said the bridges are unique to the Broads and require a lot of work due to decades of under-investment. The company says any problems should be solved during a £4.5m maintenance scheme to improve their reliability and lifespan.

A spokesman said: “Upgrading 19th-century structures so they are fit for the 21st century is no mean feat.

“We ask that boat users bear with us while we carry out our maintenance programme which will, once completed, dramatically improve their reliability.

“Part of the challenge is learning about these rare structures and understanding how best we can improve them whilst minimising disruption to both the railways and the waterways.”


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