THE engineers responsible for Strabane’s pedestrian bridge have moved to allay fears that recent works at the structure are not the result of damage caused by recurrent high river levels.
It had been feared, particularly among Strabane’s angling fraternity, that remedial works at the bridge had been necessary due to repeated flooding in recent weeks.
However Fox Contracts – the Carrickmore company which retains responsibility for the maintenance – clarified to the Chronicle that the “rock mattresses” being installed at the bridge foundations are the last pieces of the jigsaw which have to be done before the bridge is adopted by the Department of Infrastructure.
The mattresses – cages containing rocks commonly seen on town river-banks – are designed to prevent a scouring of the riverbank at the foundations of the bridge.
“It’s used as well so that natural vegetation can come back and colonise the riverbank, so that visually and naturally, there isn’t any difference in the riverbank under the bridge,” Michael Kelly of Fox Contracts explained.
“Basically we don’t want the riverbank to wash away and we want the natural vegetation to come back.”
Opened prior to Christmas in 2015, the bridge has already achieved iconic status in the town and beyond, something Mr Kelly said is a satisfying development.
However Mr Kelly and Fox Contracts will only retain responsibility for the bridge for the next few weeks, until that mantel is taken over by the Department of Infrastructure.
While, he noted, Derry City and Strabane District Council will own the structure, responsibility for its maintenance will lie with the Department.
“We had been due to start the work the week the last flood happened, so we had to wait for the water levels to go down for that to happen,” he continued.
“But the type of concrete which is used – there are 36 piles going into the ground with a concrete slab on top – unless something major happens, it’s difficult to see how anything would move the bridge.
“The department will do a monitoring period for a year and if there’s anything that needs done, we’ll come down and do that.
“My involvement is coming to an end. Adoption of the bridge should take place in the very near future.”
Joking that he’ll miss having responsibility for the bridge, Mr Kelly added, “Sure, it’s like a member of the family now.”