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Future of the Transporter Bridge to be discussed

A new chapter in the history of the Transporter Bridge would be decided following a public consultation, under plans to be put to Middlesbrough Council’s Executive.

The bridge, which opened in 1911, has been closed for 16 months due to serious safety concerns.

In its current state, the bridge is unusable for any purpose. An audit report uncovered failings in the management and maintenance of the bridge over a number of years.

The Council’s Executive will be asked to approve £655,000 being spent on urgent repair work before a decision is made on its long-term use.

The Council has already committed £377,000 to make the bridge safe, park the gondola and carry out inspections.

A report to Executive will outline that the cost of the Grade-II listed bridge being open purely as a visitor attraction would be around £4m over a 10-year period.

That model would allow visitors to use the lift offering incredible views of the Middlesbrough area.

The full cost of reopening the bridge to traffic at rush hour could be over £7m across the same 10-year timeframe.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “The Transporter Bridge is part of who we are and we will always preserve and protect this special part of Teesside.

“Exactly what role it will play for the next 100 years is a decision we should all consider together.”

The report sets out how a consultation on the bridge’s future, taking into account its local significance and the estimated costs of ongoing maintenance, would follow the initial urgent repairs.

The consultation would include detailed discussions with Stockton Council, the Department for Transport, Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Transporter was closed in August 2019 following a safety inspection.

Before a principal inspection commissioned during that summer, the previous such inspection took place in 2011. It is recommended that inspections take place a minimum of every six years.

Concerns regarding health and safety and the overall maintenance and management regime for the bridge were received by the Council’s internal auditor in August 2019.

A subsequent investigation by auditors found cause for considerable concern.

While no evidence was found that requests for maintenance or closures were refused, the audit identified a “mostly passive and ineffective” management approach to the bridge over the previous decade.

The audit found that the lack of specifically qualified or trained engineering staff ultimately led to the bridge deteriorating to the extent it presented a health and safety risk.

Auditors set out 10 findings, seven of which were deemed ‘Priority 1’, meaning there was a “fundamental risk requiring immediate action”.

The audit noted improvements to working practices following the transfer of bridge management from the Transport and Infrastructure department to Property and Commercial Services.

As a result of the failures identified in the audit report, the Council is proposing a review of its system for assessing the condition of other buildings and structures.

The audit report findings will be presented to the Council’s Corporate Affairs and Audit Committee on December 17.

The Council’s Executive will discuss the future of the Transporter Bridge on December 22.