Fears bridge jams could affect tourism

The continuing failure of swing bridges on the Broads could have a “devastating effect” on tourism, it was claimed yesterday.A meeting of the Broads Authority was told the rail bridge at Somerleyton, near Lowestoft, had jammed in the past five days preventing the passage of boats with fixed masts and certain large motor boats.

The continuing failure of swing bridges on the Broads could have a “devastating effect” on tourism, it was claimed yesterday.

A meeting of the Broads Authority was told the rail bridge at Somerleyton, near Lowestoft, had jammed in the past five days preventing the passage of boats with fixed masts and certain large motor boats.

And the bridge at Trowse, near Norwich, had been unable to be opened mechanically since the mechanism broke down two years ago. Presently, it could only be operated manually and boat owners had to book an opening two days in advance.

The Authority's director of waterways Trudi Wakelin, who has called a crisis meeting with Network Rail engineers at Trowse on Tuesday, said a major challenge was that the bridges were 19th century structures and parts had to be specially


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made.

She warned that this meant the Somerleyton bridge was likely to be out of action for months even though Network Rail had money allocated in its budget for repairs.

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Other bridges have also been affected in recent years, with 50 passengers on the Great Yarmouth pleasureboat Southern Belle becoming stranded in Reedham last July when the bridge there jammed. The bridge at Oulton Broad has also failed on several occasions, hindering the Southern Belle's trips there.

There was anger among Broads Authority members, with Martin Broom warning that the closure of Somerleyton bridge could have a “devastating effect on the southern Broads” and tourism businesses in Beccles and Oulton Broad.

And he said the continuing problems at Trowse posed a threat to Norwich as a centre for visiting boats.

David Broad urged the Authority to look into compensation as there was a legal obligation for Network Rail to maintain the bridges.

Peter Frost said: “The key thing is the attitude of the railway authority. Do we believe there is a sense of urgency?

“If a bridge jammed so trains could not cross it, the problem would be sorted in days.”

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