Bickleigh Bridge to reopen earlier than planned on Bank Holiday Monday

Scaffold erected at Bickleigh Bridge Scaffold was in place within 24 hours

Posted on: 28 May 2021

Bickleigh Bridge on the A396 in Mid Devon will reopen to traffic on Bank Holiday Monday, a week earlier than planned.

An articulated lorry hit the parapet wall on the downstream side of the Bickleigh Bridge in the early hours of May 18.

When the driver realised he had taken the wrong line onto the bridge, he attempted to reverse – it was this reversing manoeuvre that caused the damage.

The bridge has been closed to traffic since the accident, although pedestrians and cyclists have been allowed access.

The same day engineers assessed the damage and a scaffold was erected within 24 hours to allow repairs to begin.

Skilled stone masons have been working every day in all weathers to repair the bridge as soon as possible so that the busy main road can be reopened.

Despite the dreadful weather conditions in the first week progress on the repairs went well, and the road will open sooner than anticipated.

As with repairs to all Devon County Council owned historic bridges – Devon has the largest number of highway bridges in the UK at 3215 – lime mortar has been used to rebuild the masonry elements. The original stone and copings were retrieved from the river below for reuse.

The stone masons will complete the repair works today (Friday May 28) after which white lining works on the Tiverton side will take place.

To ensure the lime-based masonry is properly cured and allowed  to reach the required strength, the area will be covered with damp hessian sheeting topped with polythene to create the ideal curing environment during which time the road will have to remain closed.

It is anticipated it will be opened first thing on Bank Holiday Monday (May 31).

The repairs have included re-building the spandrel wall, which supports the arch fill and is a structural element, and the parapet wall.

The hatched area below the trief kerbs will be re-painted on Friday evening on the approach to the bridge.

Bickleigh Bridge has undergone several repairs over the years, often as a result of impacts by vehicles, and re-aligning the approach with new kerb stones some years ago has improved vehicles’ ease of access onto the bridge.

However larger trucks and lorries have occasionally bumped up the kerb and scraped the upstream parapet wall. Double-height kerb stones, used commonly in situations like this, were introduced this year to prevent that, and have been very effective in preventing the damage seen previously on this bridge.

They could not however prevent this latest damage which was a case of driver error

In addition to the refreshed white lining, new signage is being designed for the Tiverton approach to advise drivers of larger vehicles the correct way to approach the bridge.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways Management, said: “I understand that while the damage looked extensive

Photo of Councillor Stuart Hughes

Councillor Stuart Hughes

the integrity of what is a very strong and well-built bridge was not affected.

“There was no damage to the main load bearing arch and the speed of which the bridge is to be reopened is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our engineers and contractors.”

Devon County Councillor Margaret Squires, local member for Creedy, Taw & Mid Exe, said:

Cllr Margaret Squires, local member for Creedy, Taw and Mid Exe “I’d like to thank local people for their understanding and businesses Fisherman’s Cot and Bickleigh Mill for allowing people to use their car parks during the bridge closure. It allowed many living on one side of the bridge to continue to access their vehicles with minimum disruption. I am aware that the closure of the bridge also led to increased traffic being diverted through nearby  communities, and I’d also like to thank those residents for their forbearance during this time.”

Devon County Councillor Richard Chesterton, local member for Tiverton West, said:

Cllr Richard Chesterton, local member for Tiverton West “After speaking with officers over the last few weeks it’s clear that everything that can be done to repair the bridge quickly, to ensure traffic is kept moving and to minimise the chances of future incidents has been done. The installation of new signs will also help to give drivers of larger vehicles the information they need to cross the bridge without incident. Local county councillors will be reviewing other longer term options to protect the bridge at a future meeting of Mid Devon HATOC.”

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