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Somerleyton bridge problems could hit Broads tourism

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 July 2010 | UPDATED: 21:57 01 August 2010

Somerleyton swing bridge

Somerleyton swing bridge

Hayley Mace

The Broads Authority and boaters have warned that ongoing problems with the Somerleyton swing bridge could affect tourism in the region.

The bridge was closed to boats last Wednesday following a mechanical fault, and a temporary winch was installed by Network Rail to allow boats to pass twice a day, rather than the usual on-demand service.

The Broads Authority and boaters have warned that ongoing problems with the Somerleyton swing bridge could affect tourism in the region.

The bridge was closed to boats last Wednesday following a mechanical fault, and a temporary winch was installed by Network Rail to allow boats to pass twice a day, rather than the usual on-demand service.

The bridge, which is the gateway to Oulton Broad and the sea, is about 100 years old and there is a lack of accurate technical information available to engineers, who yesterday continued to work towards a solution.

Trudi Wakelin, director of waterways for the Broads Authority, said: “There is a very real likelihood that if Somerleyton swing bridge is unreliable it could affect tourism in the Broads.

“Hire and day boats aren't impeded, but it's not ideal for Broads sailing craft, which will have to stop and lower their masts.”

She said there was a “very real risk” that people with seagoing cruisers and fixed mast yachts could leave the Broads altogether, with a knock on effect to mooring providers, chandlers, boatyards, shops, pubs and restaurants.

The warning comes weeks after the “Britain's magical waterland” campaign was launched to invigorate Broads tourism.

“We have been trying to encourage craft from the east coast ports and continent to visit the Broads as a destination, but if their opportunities are restricted they may decide to go where there are no low bridges,” said Mrs Wakelin.

She added that Network Rail had a statutory obligation to open the bridges for navigation and could be liable to pay compensation.

Sarah and Douglas Phillips, from Mattishall, said that they were stuck sailing between Beccles and Oulton Broad for a week due to the swing bridge repairs, but were able to leave on Wednesday afternoon.

“We phoned them [the signal box] every day apart from Sunday asking if it had been repaired, and could we travel through, and were told no,” said Mrs Phillips.

“People are going to desert the Southern Broads.”

A spokesman for Network Rail, said: “We appreciate this is by no means an ideal situation, however, people should be assured we are working flat out to work out the best long term solution to ensure reliability of the bridge in the future.”

On weekdays, the bridge opens for 10 minutes from 9.55am and 3.30pm. On Saturdays, from 9.22am to 9.52am and from 3.25pm to 3.52pm. On Sundays, from 10am to 11.27am and from 4pm to 5.28pm.

For more information on the temporary swings, call Network Rail on 08457 114141 or visit www.broads-authority.gov.uk.

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