Fears that Shaldon Bridge may have to close to cars and pedestrians

There are fears that Shaldon Bridge may have to close completely for a short time to make it safe for cars and pedestrians.

Buses are already banned – along with all vehicles above three tonnes – and now traffic lights have been put in place restricting the bridge to one lane above the section where rotten wooden piles have been found.

The deteriorating wood inside the piers on the vital link between Shaldon and Teignmouth was recently discovered and underwater inspections have been carried out for the last week.

The bridge’s original construction drawings showed piers were made of concrete piles encased in steel and concrete.

But a recent inspection unexpectedly revealed that at least one of the piles was made from timber which had started to deteriorate.

Specialist divers working on Shaldon Bridge
Specialist divers working on Shaldon Bridge

This weekend traffic lights were erected to restrict traffic to one lane so that no more than three tonnes crosses the damaged section at at one time for safety reasons. Long diversion routes are in place.

Cllr Alistair Dewhirst said: “We are still waiting for the results of the dive. The engineers are still processing the information from that dive.

“This is a very big operation.

“We are hoping that the bridge remains open to traffic and pedestrians bearing in mind the consequences of a full bridge closure for businesses, schools and everybody involved. Everybody is literally on tenterhooks waiting.

“If there are more safety issues raised it may be that if has to close completely for a short time because the top of the piles that are wooden are eroding away and as a consequence the structure would become more and more unsafe.”

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One possible solution will be to construct steel sheaths around the suspect piles and pour in concrete to strengthen them and allow the weight limit to be increased from the current 3 tonnes to 7.5 tonnes.

Signs of Work in progress at Shaldon Bridge after it was discovered one of the supporting piles was timber, not steel.
Signs of Work in progress at Shaldon Bridge after it was discovered one of the supporting piles was timber, not steel.

Cllr Dewhirst added: “If we can make this sheath around the piles it should take a couple of weeks and we could increase the weight limit to 7.5 tonnes.

“Devon County Council is mobilising heavy engineering equipment at the moment to look at taking the bridge back to its full 40 tonne weight limit.

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“I have been told categorically6 that it’s DCC’s number one priority. All the engineering staff have been working across the weekend and wil continue to work until we have a resolution.

“In the short term my number one concern is that vehicles and pedestrians can get across and I am trying to keep the local community informed.”