Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Flooded Workington united by new army-built bridge

Workington residents crossing the new bridge
Heavy rain fell in Workington throughout the morning

A Cumbrian town divided when floods destroyed its river crossings, killing a police officer, has been re-united by a temporary footbridge.

Workington's Barker Crossing, built by the Army, is named after Pc Bill Barker who died when Northside Bridge was washed away during last month's floods.

The 170ft (52m) bridge across the River Derwent took a week to build.

Schoolchildren were the first to use the new crossing, as heavy rain again fell across the county.

Around a dozen flood watches remain in Cumbria, but rain is forecast to be less persistent over the next 24 hours.

The new bridge was described as 'absolutely wonderful'

It is the first time since the floods that people in Workington have been able to cross the river, other than by rail.

In addition to the collapse of Northside Bridge, a footbridge was also destroyed, and the town's Calva Bridge was left unstable.

Since then some school pupils have endured long bus journeys and strain has been put on the road network in west Cumbria.

Maj Nigel Hindmarsh, of the Royal Engineers, said the new bridge had been constructed to withstand a one in 100-year flood.

He said: "I'm immensely proud of what my boys have achieved in the last 10 days, but also it's just been amazing the community spirit and the support that we've had from the locals in everything that we've been doing."

AT THE SCENE
John Thorne
By John Thorne, in Workington

In the heavy rain and swirling Cumbrian wind, the Royal Engineers who had built the bridge proudly lined up across their construction as the first Workington "customers" tested a structure built in record time.

The soldiers clapped and smiled as 100 or so schoolchildren scampered laughing and jostling across the swollen River Derwent.

This was the first time since the tragic floods last month that the communities on the south and north banks of the river in Workington had been directly connected.

The bridge was named Barker's Crossing after a campaign organised by local teenagers on YouTube.

Grace Friar, a student at the local sixth form college, said the new bridge which now replaces an 18-mile diversion, would save her two hours travel a day.

Capt Caroline Graham-Brown from the Royal Engineers helped design the new crossing in Workington.

She said when the team first arrived at the site, it was under water.

She said: "It's amazing how quickly it's gone in.

"We got here two weeks ago, and the initial sort of site survey was the first thing that we undertook and since then it's really been a very, very short time to get the guys on the ground building it and then the bridge into the position that you see now."

Insp Mark Wear, of Workington Police, said: "This footbridge is a tangible symbol of how we are starting to rebuild the area and getting back to normal.

"I am pleased that its name commemorates my friend and colleague Bill, who died saving lives right here in Workington.

"He was committed to serving his community and for him to be remembered in this way is a tribute to his memory."

Plans for a temporary road bridge are expected to be outlined in the next few days.

However, it is thought north and south Workington may not be reconnected by road until next summer.

Workington's temporary footbridge
1. Railway bridge: Previously the only link between the two sides of the town, this bridge is accessible from a temporary station built on the north side
2. Northside Bridge: The foundations of this bridge, which collapsed 20 November, are too damaged for a temporary footbridge to be built over the remains
3. Northside footbridge: This footbridge, a quick option for pedestrians, collapsed during the floods
4. Calva Bridge: This bridge has been closed by the council after suffering structural damage, including large cracks in the foundations
5. Temporary footbridge: This new bridge can carry up to 80 tonnes



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SEE ALSO
Workington footbridge webcam
03 Dec 09 |  Nature
Army footbridge for flooded town
27 Nov 09 |  Wiltshire

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