Page last updated at 20:33 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Historic bridge 'near collapse'

High Level Bridge
More than 5m has been spent renovating the bridge

A highways expert fears the 160-year-old High Level Bridge over the River Tyne could collapse if drivers continued to break the rules.

Peter Whitehead, head of city traffic management, said the historic structure was at risk because heavy vehicles were using it illegally.

The Grade I listed bridge, was designed by Robert Stephenson and is the oldest bridge across the river.

There is a three-tonne weight limit and vehicles must not travel above 20mph.

'Structural damage'

Mr Whitehead said: "I don't want to scaremonger, that's the last thing I want to do, but we are talking about a 160-year-old bridge and it was never built to take this amount of traffic on a daily basis.

"The more vehicles that use it, especially the heavier ones, the more structural damage it will suffer.

"Network Rail has spent more than 5m over the past few years bringing this bridge back to its original quality. It's surface is timber with Tarmac on top of it, it is not made for so much use."

The High Level Bridge over the Tyne was closed to traffic in February 2005 while owners Network Rail carried out the structural work.

It re-opened in May 2008, but only to small buses and taxis travelling in a southbound direction.

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