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Somerset Bridge showing its age

Somerset Bridge

Somerset Bridge — the smallest working drawbridge in the world — is showing its age.

Workmen who have been repairing the walkway, since October, have now found it is “in far worse condition than originally suspected”.

And, that means the pedestrian path will have to be completely replaced, with work continuing until the end of February.

The bridge dates back to 1620 and remains one of the island’s most popular attractions.

“The original work planned for Somerset Bridge was established after an inspection revealed some safety issues on the walkway and on the railing on the north side of the bridge,” a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Works said.

“Safety is the Ministry’s top priority. The top surfaces of the beams were in bad condition. Because of that, it was deemed unsuitable to anchor the new railing to those beams. It should be noted that safety issues were related to railing anchors, not to global bridge stability.” She added that work was carried out to rebuild those elements and make the bridge safe.

“While carrying out this work, crews from the Department of Works and Engineering were able to see fully what was underneath the walkway, which revealed that the bridge was in far worse condition than was originally suspected.

“Therefore, the decision was made to change all the beams and all components of the pedestrian bridge, which will result in what will be, essentially, a brand-new pedestrian bridge.

“Crews will need three weeks to complete the south side of the bridge and then three weeks to complete the north side, starting Monday, January 16. Work should be completed by the end of February.”

The tiny bridge was officially designated an historic monument in 2015.

Meanwhile, work at the Swing Bridge in St George’s is progressing with new floor beams being installed on the swing span.

“Work on the approach span should start shortly, as we wait for the final beams to be delivered.”

The spokeswoman added that other works were planned on bridges around the island “and everything is on schedule”.

“We regularly carry out continuous maintenance and preventive maintenance on our assets. At this time, we haven’t identified any particular problems with other bridges.”

The spokeswoman also noted that an asset management programme would be started this month.

“Our first priorities will be the drainage systems and bridges,” she said.

“There is a tender closing on February 8, 2017, for the repainting of the handrail at Watford Bridge.

“Although not structural work, it is part of our maintenance programme and will ensure that the bridge is in pristine condition for the America’s Cup.”