People are forced to walk a 42-minute diversion over the River Mersey while a footbridge is closed for repairs that could take up to nine months – but some ignore the signs and cross the ‘dangerous’ structure anyway. The Jackson’s Boat Bridge which connects Chorlton to Sale has been fenced off after Manchester Council deemed it too unsafe for public use.
But the nearest alternative crossings, at Chorlton Water Park or Stretford Ees, are over a mile away, adding 42 minutes to the journey for those walking. And the Local Democracy Reporting Service has seen evidence of people ignoring signs and crossing the bridge, ignoring the warnings.
Claire Stocks, who lives in Chorlton, often crosses the bridge on her daily walk. She said: “Jackson’s Boat Bridge is a very old and much-loved structure, used by hundreds of people every day to walk or cycle in the area, and provides a commuting link between Sale and Manchester.
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“I know the council’s resources are limited, but we don’t think the council is treating this as seriously as they would if it was for example a road, even though it is heavily used. The bridge has been deteriorating for a few years and the issues that have now forced its closure – loose boards on the sidewalk as we understand it – could have been avoided with a little maintenance.
“Councils are going to have to spend money one way or another – unless the new plan is just to close the bridge, which is unacceptable and would create a lot of opposition – and we would like that this conversation takes place with the residents and users of the territory.”
Sam Tate, who describes himself as an active travel advocate, welcomed the work being done but said the detour – which is a 10-minute cycle ride – is not “fit for purpose” given the expected duration of repairs. He says the alternatives along the river paths, which are made of bricks and coarse gravel, are “extremely uneven” and inaccessible to people in wheelchairs.
He called on Manchester Council to create a temporary scaffolding bridge to be used to replace the ‘important link’ of the local walking and cycling network. He said: “It would be a shame to lose the bridge if it were that because it’s an attractive historical feature, but it hasn’t been fit for purpose for some time.
“It would be nice if councils could use this time to get the proposed parallel accessible bridge back on track and build it as soon as possible. laid along the Mersey to make them usable by all – a temporary bridge would help, but a revetment upgrade would have permanent benefits.
“Perhaps Metrolink could offer free rides and allow bikes between Barlow Moor Road and Sale Water Park to get people across in the meantime.”
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Chorlton councilors say a permanent repair or replacement of the bridge is needed. They said a temporary bridge installation was being considered as an option – but it would cost around £220,000, according to council engineers.
Manchester Council is also considering the possibility of using a nearby service bridge owned by Electricity North West as a stopgap measure while repairs are being made.
Chorlton residents also want Trafford Council to revisit previous plans from 2017 to build a new, wider and more accessible bridge and improve paths. A spokesman for Trafford Council said the scheme had not progressed due to budget uncertainty, but the local authority was still keen to push it forward.
A spokesman for Manchester Council said: “Following a recent inspection of Jackson Bridge, it has become clear that the deteriorating surface poses an immediate and unacceptable risk to the public if it is kept open. As the bridge is a listed structure, approvals are required before work can begin, so it is difficult to give a definitive timetable at this early stage.
“A diversion will be put in place for the duration of this work, and the town hall thanks the residents for their understanding for the realization of this essential maintenance.”
The council urged people to stop breaching the site’s temporary security fence to cross the bridge which has been deemed unsafe and unsafe.
Chorlton’s advisers said there was a ‘serious risk of harm and danger’. They said: ‘We know it’s an inconvenience for a lot of people, but it’s being worked on and it’s a tough job.
Trans Pennine Trail said it was aware of the “emergency closure” of the broken bridge which is not directly on the trail but is a “key link” for local communities. A spokesperson said: “Our partners in Manchester are providing details of the diversion as soon as possible. The safety of trail users is paramount at all times.”