A FIRE has damaged Blackweir Bridge in Cardiff meaning some of its timber decking needs to be replaced.
Repair work on the bridge, which also includes replacing damaged mesh panels, has been delayed due to high water levels in the River Taff.
Heavy storms in February and March last year led to a large tree washing down the river, hitting Blackweir Bridge and damaging some of the mesh panels.
A recent freedom of information request to Cardiff University, responsible for maintaining the bridge, has revealed a report from engineers on full details of the structural damage and what work is needed before the key route over the river Taff can reopen.
Engineers Cass Hayward inspected the bridge for the potential damage caused by the tree, finding damage to mesh panels, a bent bolt to the south pier bearing, and fire damage to the underside of the deck timbers at the west end of the bridge.
The engineers said: “It may be that branches protruding from the tree became impaled in and punctured the mesh panels.”
The bent bolt was likely “deformed due to rust jacking”, rather than the impact from the tree.
They added: “The damage to the decking has obviously not been caused by flooding, but due to a fire under the west end of the bridge. The fire appeared to be located under two bays of the west end, with smoke damage covering six bays.
“Other than the damage caused by a fire, the condition of the timber deck does appear to be deteriorating generally. The timber deck seems to be approaching the end of its service life, even ignoring the damage due to the fire.”
The engineers recommended that before reopening the bridge, the damaged mesh panels and timber deck should be replaced.
Cardiff council closed Blackweir Bridge in April last year, ostensibly due to the coronavirus pandemic and people not socially distancing on the narrow footpath. However, the next bridge further upstream, which carries the A48 Western Avenue, also has a narrow footpath.
Pedestrians and cyclists can regularly be seen crossing past each other very close by on this narrow footpath — which is next to a four-lane busy road, unlike the Blackweir Bridge.
In December, it emerged the bridge was structurally damaged and needed repairing before it could reopen. Cardiff University said contractors were due to repair the bridge in January, however that work has now been delayed due to heavy rainfall and high water levels in the river.
A Cardiff University spokesperson said:
“Contractors have been appointed to undertake the necessary repairs to the bridge. We had hoped these repairs would be completed by the end of January however, due to high levels of water in the river the repairs have been delayed.
“The fast flowing water remains a risk to the health and safety of our contractors. As a result, we’re unable to give an exact date when the repairs will be completed.
“We continue to observe the levels of water. When they are deemed safe enough for the contractors, the repair work will go ahead.
“While we appreciate this is frustrating for some local residents, we remain fully committed to opening the bridge as soon as we can. However, it’s important to repeat that the bridge is also currently out of public use because of continued coronavirus restrictions.
“We will liaise with Cardiff council when restrictions are eased and, subject to the required repairs being completed, the bridge is safe again for public use.”
Cardiff council previously said it was exploring possible ways of safely reopening the bridge, subject to current Covid-19 regulations and after repair work has been completed.