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Railway bridge 'being left to rot'

Historic structure could fall into river, former CIE worker claims

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Denis North on the Barrow Bridge

Denis North on the Barrow Bridge

Denis North on the Barrow Bridge

newrossstandard

Concern has been expressed that a historic railway bridge in south west Wexford which has been out of use for a decade is being left to rot and could eventually fall into the river.

Former Labour county councillor Denis North, who worked for CIE for 45 years, including 13 years operating the bridge, said the central span may fall into the River Barrow in years to come if it isn't maintained and returned to use.

Irish Rail CEO Jim Meade informed Mr North in May that there is no proposal to close the Barrow Bridge.

'The Barrow Bridge operating equipment is very old and requires significant resources to maintain and operate,' Mr Meade wrote.

He said: 'While the railway line is suspended, the focus of operation has been to support the Port of New Ross shipping operations in line with our statutory responsibility for the bridge operation.'

He said: 'In order to ensure the consistent delivery of the required shipping lane access for the Port of New Ross, we have reviewed the operation with the Port of New Ross Chief Executive and our Chief Civil engineer and propose to temporarily secure the bridge in the open position for shipping traffic, to improve the navigation controls and lighting on the bridge to a required standard and to allow the remote monitoring of bridge operations. The effect of this proposed change will ensure the reliability of the operation for maritime navigation and reduce our operations and infrastructure costs in the meantime.'

Mr North said leaving the bridge in the 'open' position indefinitely is not the way forward.

Built in the early 1900s, the Barrow Bridge used to serve trains running from Limerick to Rosslare Harbour. It transported cement and beet for four months every year from Thurles to Rosslare Strand and, in later years, from the beat plant in Mallow to Rosslare.

'A lot of students would have gotten to college in Waterford on that train line.'

The line was closed in 2008 and some minor works to maintain the bridge have continued ever since, mainly spraying weed killer along the line.

Mr North said: 'As far as I know the bridge was being maintained but the line has just been left there. I don't think anything has been done in terms of maintenance. I want to see the line maintained because we don't know what will happen in the future with climate change - more people might be using public transport over cars.'

Calling for his old employers, CIE, to invest in maintaining the line, Mr North, who was a New Ross Urban councillor from 1974 to 1979 and a county councillor from 1979 for one term, said during the time of former Labour leader Brendan Corish an attempt was made by CIE to close the Rosslare Harbour to Connolly station line.

'We went on a deputation to meet the minister. These days there is talk about the greenway. At the moment shipping is going up to New Ross under the bridge and back. Back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s there were hundreds of ships going through that Barrow Bridge up to New Ross and they would have to make a return journey. Now I don't think there are 100 in a year.

'CIE have opened the bridge and plan to leave it in an open position all of the time. Effectively they want to abandon the bridge and if they do that we will never see a train going on that line again. There is a preservation order on the bridge.'

Mr North recalls working on the line an operating the bridge from 1989 until he retired and has fond memories of that period when there was a huge volume of vessels on the Barrow.

'I hate to see it being just left there. We saw what happened on the line from Waterford to Cork. They took out the span and just put in a scrapyard. It will rust away and fall into the river unless something is done. It should be opened to traffic but only when required,' Mr North said.


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