By RYAN TAYLOR
The Burra and Trondra bridges are in such poor condition that barriers running alongside them are being held up in places by nothing more than plastic ties.
The claim has been made by Burra councillor Betty Fullerton, who says drastic action is needed to bring the bridges back up to standard, even if it means closing them for a short time at night.
She made her comments as councillors discussed a rolling programme for roads and transport capital projects for the next financial year.
A report before members of the infrastructure committee highlighted a list of projects, which should see work carried out on bridges, roads, footways and drains throughout 2009/10.
However roads workers have been asked to achieve more results with fewer resources.
Last month’s meeting of the Full Council heard that funds available for the projects have dropped from £1.3 million in 2008/09 to £1.098 million in the coming financial year.
In the meantime, projects estimated to cost more than £150,000 are being promoted for inclusion in the council’s new capital programme.
Falling under that heading are the Burra and Trondra bridges. A report before councillors found the development of inspection walkways underneath the bridges could make inspecting them a much easier and safer task for engineers than it has previously been.
Councillors also heard they would allow engineers the chance to inspect bridges more frequently and potentially spot any problems before they became increasingly expensive to deal with.
Mrs Fullerton said the bridges required urgent maintenance work to make them safer. “My concern is the fact there’s damage that has been patched up on the bridges using plastic cable ties, and I don’t see anything in here to re-assure me as to when it’s going to be repaired.”
She also criticised a comment in the report which described how crossing the water under the bridges was reputed to be a local initiation rite for engineers.
“I find that comment rather offensive, and I don’t think it was right to have that included in a council report.”
Network and design manager David Macnae apologised for the comment and said repairs would be carried out in the near future, although it would mean closing the bridges, probably late on a Saturday night.
Mrs Fullerton said residents were prepared to see the bridges close, as long as the repairs were carried out.
A number of councillors were anxious to stress the importance of other projects in their wards.
Bill Manson said minor roads in the north Mainland warranted special attention, but he said roads engineers should seek cheaper solutions in order to get more work done.
“The primary road network is actually very good, and the secondary road network ain’t too bad either, it’s the tertiary roads that have shown very significant signs of wear.”
He criticised the use of the words “future years” when engineers were setting a timetable to carry out work, adding a predecessor of his had seen the term as a euphemism for “never”.
“I know the engineers want to do a good job for us, but I do think it’s worthy of debate whether the cost of engineering solutions shouldn’t be set against getting less cost from engineering solutions and getting more done.
“The chief plea is to look at engineering standards to see if we can get more bang for our bucks.”