There is a possibility the Victorian railway bridge that used to stand proudly at Castlerock train station may never return to its former home.
Causeway Coast and Glens councillors were informed by the Director of Environmental Services, Aiden McPeake, that he ‘couldn’t rule out’ that the bridge would remain missing.
Causeway Coast and Glens Council is responsible for the upkeep of the footbridge after the former Coleraine Council entered into a 10,000 year lease with NI Transport Holding Company in 1996.
In 2017 the council approved the contract for its removal and assessment with a view to ascertaining can it be restored and at what cost. Following the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) assessment in 2018, it was confirmed that the bridge was capable of being restored and put back in place.
DUP Councillor Adrian McQuiillan spoke of the importance of the bridge to the people of Castlerock and wider community when he asked for an update.
The Bann DEA councillor asked officials when ‘we can expect to see the bridge back in Castlerock where it belongs’ and where it is currently at.
“Can we have a timeline when the bridge will be placed back in Castlerock?” he asked.
“These are questions the Castlerock Community Association are enquiring about and it’s something that’s important to them and the rest of the borough.”
Mr McPeake explained that the bridge is in storage before explaining the council’s hands ‘are tied’ in relation to the timescales.
He said: “We have completed an element of structural analysis that Translink have requested and it is in their hands to approve what we have done that it satisfies their requirements for putting the bridge back in again.
“The bridge will be obviously over the top of the rail track so they are taking a very cautious approach as to the structural stability and are challenging some of the analysis that has been done so it is taking a longer process than we anticipated.
“Really it’s in their hands. We will go back to them to reinforce the members’ view that we want this done as swiftly as possible and we will come back with some form of firmer timeline.”
Councillor McQuillan asked the Director of Environmental Services to emphasise to Translink the importance of the bridge to the local community.
Asking if there was a rough indication of the work needed and the cost required, SDLP Orla Beattie said: “It seems to me the bridge was taken away, we have assessed it but we are no further forward.”
Mr McPeacke commented: “No, Translink holds the key to it. They have to be satisfied with the analysis completed by the consultant. If they are satisfied with that there will be costs attributable to that for the repairs and we will come back to members with what those costs are.
Cllr Beattie added: “Do you think there is a real chance they won’t agree with us and if so will the bridge remain indefinitely missing?
The director explained he ‘can’t rule that possibility out’ saying: “That may well be the case. We are doing our best to work within the procedures they have in place and with Translink to get a result on this.”