How fears over strong winds are slowing down progress on repairing Gaol Ferry Bridge

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‘High-risk elements’ are delaying the bridge’s reopening

A completion date for the repair works being carried out on Gaol Ferry Bridge will be announced once the ‘high-risk elements’ of the repairs are completed, Bristol City Council has confirmed.

The council has also revealed that the work to repair the structure’s steel can only be done in phases due to the weight of the ‘environmental’ covering, which a spokesperson said, if too big, could get caught in the wind.

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The busy footpath and cycle bridge has been closed since August for ‘essential repairs’ which include replacing rotten timber, stonework and repainting the structure. Gaol Ferry Bridge leads to Wapping Wharf, a businesses hub which has thrived since opening in 2017 - but the closure is taking its toll on traders.

Bristol World visited the popular shopping destination earlier this month on a Saturday lunchtime and found footfall to be less than expected. Rozzy’s fishmongers has been open for four years in the area but she admitted “business has dropped 20-30% since the bridge closed so we are just weathering the storm.”

Bristol City Council told Bristol World that the bridge’s reopening has been partly delayed due to the nature of repair works needed. While repairing the steel, builders have been confined to small areas of the framework which has taken time.

A spokesperson explained: “Our contractor, Griffiths, is continuing with the steel repairs during these essential works. They have grit-blasted the paint and corrosion off the first section of the bridge and primed the steel.

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“This needs to be completed in phases as only a small section of the bridge can be covered at a time. This is because the environmental wrap, which stops paint and other pollutants from ending up in the river, would be too heavy if the whole bridge was encapsulated, especially if it’s caught by the wind.

Gaol Ferry Bridge closed in August for essential repairs which will continue well into 2023Gaol Ferry Bridge closed in August for essential repairs which will continue well into 2023
Gaol Ferry Bridge closed in August for essential repairs which will continue well into 2023 | Mark Taylor

“Once all the paint has been removed, we’ll be able to see the full extent of the steel repairs needed. We of course want to reopen the bridge as soon as possible, and expect to have a forecasted completion date once all the high-risk elements of the bridge have been investigated and repaired.”

The authority has a blog dedicated to the repair works which it estimates could take the better part of a year to complete.

It reads: “Due to the complexity of the project, we’ve revised our plans for the work and think it could take between 6 and 9 months to carry out the repairs safely. We’ll still work to encourage our contractors to reopen the bridge as soon as possible. Project timelines can also change depending on external factors, like if we find the bridge is in a worse condition when all the decking is removed.”

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