Railway line will close to allow demolition of Leighton Buzzard footbridge

The soon-to-be-demolished footbridge
The soon-to-be-demolished footbridge

Leighton Buzzard’s railway line will have to be closed later this year because a footbridge over it has been deemed a serious danger to the public and must be demolished.

The bridge across the railway line from Southcourt Avenue in Linslade is a long-established public right-of-way, with specialised access for cyclists.

But it was closed temporarily last summer due to concerns about its condition, with users having to divert along an alternative route via the main station footbridge.

Fearing the bridge wouldn’t be replaced and the diversion route might end up being Network Rail’s long-term solution, the Leighton Buzzard Society asked Andrew Selous MP to investigate on their behalf.

Central Beds Council, which issued the temporary closure notice and has been liaising with Network Rail over the issue, told the South West Beds MP that Network Rail had informed them the bridge was in an “extremely poor condition” and that they were working on a permanent solution.

CBC told the MP it had received an email from Network Rail which stated: “It has various defects and in its present condition, there is a very real likelihood of danger to the public.

“Temporary works are being arranged to install a scaffold system to support a solid roof covering over the operational railway, in order to prevent concrete debris falling from the bridge deck onto the railway below.

“Two spans on the bridge are unsatisfactory for self-weight and the third span’s load capability is severely limited.

“Unfortunately, a repair of the existing structure is not possible, due to the very poor condition of the bridge and the danger it presents to the public.

“The demolition of the bridge is imperative for safety reasons.”

The email added: “Demolition projects and programmes such as this on the operational railway, are extremely complex and involve a lot of planning which can have long lead in times. We will need to close the railway to demolish the bridge.”

It added that the usual two year lead-in time would be accelerated due to the condition of the bridge, but the earliest opportunity was over the May Bank Holiday this year, with possessions and worksites booked for the April 2o-22 and May 5-6.

John Sharp, of the Leighton Buzzard Society, said: “The bridge has various defects and in its present condition, there is a very real likelihood of danger to the public.

“We are pleased to see that Network Rail and Central Bedfordshire Council recognise the need for a permanent solution for the replacement of this footbridge and are actively working towards it.

“I don’t need to emphasise further that the long-standing access route provided by [the footbridge] must be maintained for our community in Linslade by a replacement permanent footbridge or subway.

“Exactly what form this will take and where it will be located given the physical constraints at this location, is a matter ultimately for agreement with Network Rail and Central Bedfordshire after taking into consideration the views of the local community.

“A ramped pedestrian access leading to a replacement bridge over the railway would be the optimum solution.”