String of bridge failures leads to concerns over Broads tourism

Boats at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. Picture: Thomas Chapman

Boats at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club. Picture: Thomas Chapman - Credit: Archant

Holidaymakers are warning they might not return to a Norfolk gem after getting stranded following failures of three bridges.

Holidaymakers stranded in Lowestoft. From left to right, Tom Carrington, Beryl Barker, Sheila Carrin

Holidaymakers stranded in Lowestoft. From left to right, Tom Carrington, Beryl Barker, Sheila Carrington, John Nicholls & Keith Barker. Picture: Valerie Nicholls - Credit: Archant

Following a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, 13 vessels from the Norfolk Yacht Agency were left without a route inland when bridges failed in Great Yarmouth, Oulton Broad and Somerleyton.

Unable to reach the agency's base in Brundall, the fleet was forced to dock at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club in Lowestoft - only being able to leave yesterday.

Yarmouth's Haven Bridge failed on June 21 and Mutford Lock was damaged as a result of a traffic collision, while the thermal expansion of the metal Somerleyton swing bridge is a regular source of problems.

One stuck boater, Sheila Carrington, who was in Lowestoft on her boat Dynasty unable to return home to Walsall with her husband, said the experience is making her reassess having a boat in the Broads.

She said: 'I can't believe it has taken so long for the bridge to be repaired. It is making us think if we are going to keep our boat on the Broads. Haven Bridge is closed which is a real inconvenience.

'We are supposed to be going out to sea next week and to be honest we are going to cancel it because of what has happened.

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'We love it on the Broads, we love being on the river and going to the restaurants on the river. The problems are detrimental to the Broads and its reputation and to tourism.'

David Phillips', whose boat was also stuck in Lowestoft, said: 'There was no sense of urgency to try and solve the problem.

'I don't believe anybody is taking any notice of us. Network Rail aren't interested in helping; the Broads Authority don't seem to be interested in private boaters like myself and my friends.'

James Fraser, managing director at the Norfolk Yacht Agency, said: 'A lot of people say 'good, it will stop the more lavish boats coming in', but the fact is people are reliant on the Broads tourist trade for jobs.

'We're faced with a situation where there's simply no way in or out. In the end, tourists will just go elsewhere and there will be big consequences.'

The metal Reedham and Somerleyton swing bridges, built in 1905, expand in the heat to the point that they cannot open or close.

Chief executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman, said it was about time the infrastructure was updated to cope with present day needs.

He said: 'Somerleyton and Reedham bridges are old metal structures and coming to the end of their useful life.

'The failure of the bridges is inevitably a problem for private owners of larger boats that cannot fit underneath, and the Broads Authority's preferred solution is their replacement with new bridges.'

A Network Rail spokesman added: 'The swing bridges need regular maintenance and are dependent on temperature because of their metal parts. We have looked at replacing them in the past, but it would come at a significant cost.'

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