Hopes to reconnect railway line survive as bridge works scrapped

The Melton Constable Trust and Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR) with help from council and councillors have prevented Gatley Bridge

The Melton Constable Trust and Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR) with help from council and councillors have prevented Gateley Bridge, known as bridge 1711 near Great Ryburgh, from being infilled - Credit: Melton Constable Trust archive

A group of volunteers have helped save a bridge and their hopes of eventually reconnecting a railway line.

The Melton Constable Trust (MCT) and Mid Norfolk Railway (MNR), alongside Norfolk County Council, and local MPs Jerome Mayhew and George Freeman, have prevented Gateley Bridge, known as bridge 1711 near Great Ryburgh, from being infilled.

The infilling being scrapped keeps hopes alive of connecting the village, along with Fakenham, to the railway network.

Infilling is where rubble, soil, and other material is added underneath a bridge to support it.

Infilling was part of a national policy being pursued by Highways England, who were given responsibility for redundant railway bridges.

The policy saw a national outcry, and a petition was launched by The Historic Railway Estate, amid fears many railway restoration schemes, cycleways and footpaths would be affected.

A spokesman for Highways England said the major problem with the bridge was its three-tonne weight limit that was regularly being abused by heavier vehicles.

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The breaches caused a high risk of the cast-iron structure of the bridge failing with almost no warning.

Bridge 1711 near Great Ryburgh, the major problem with the bridge was the three-ton weight limit, which is signed post

Bridge 1711 near Great Ryburgh, the major problem with the bridge was the three-ton weight limit, which is signed post, was regularly being abused by vehicles weighing up to 30 tonnes - Credit: Melton Constable Trust archive

After discussions with Norfolk County Council, it was agreed the best way forward would be to install physical barriers to prevent the weight limit from being abused.

Paul Young, MCT’s project officer, said: “The work that the MPs did to influence Highways England and involve the county council in designing a technical solution was vital.

“Once an excellent piece of straightforward design work was done by the council, it was clear that a simple width restriction on vehicles using the bridge would provide a very cost-effective solution.

View from bridge 1711 looking towards Great Ryburgh in 1982, last year of the track recording car operations. 

View from bridge 1711 looking towards Great Ryburgh in 1982, last year of the track recording car operations. - Credit: John Hull

“Infilling the bridge would have cost vastly more and would surely have been an awful waste of public money.”

A spokesman for Highways confirmed that its work on the Historic Railway Estate is currently paused, adding: “At present, the plan is not to infill Gateley Bridge near to Fakenham.”

MCT hopes to re-introduce modern trains to complement the heritage service operated by the MNR.