There are calls this week for action to ensure a railway bridge in south Belfast is not forever dubbed ‘the ugliest bridge in Ireland’.
SDLP Finaghy Councillor Niall Kelly has asked the Minister for Regional Development, Conor Murphy, and the Roads Service to “get real” and come up with a solution to the “eyesore” of the Finaghy Road North Bridge.
Mr Kelly said: “For almost two years now the people of Finaghy have had to put up with this green monstrosity of a bridge.
“It is an eyesore and blight on our local community. When this bridge was first erected local people assumed it was a temporary structure and that it would not be long before the previous red brick bridge would return.
“However two years down the line it is clear that the bridge is here to stay. In recent months the bridge has become a magnet for local graffiti artists and the ugliest bridge in Ireland has become uglier.
“I have written to both Conor Murphy and the Roads Service calling on them to come up with a solution to this problem. People I speak to do not want to see this bridge remain in its current state.
“They want to see the Minister get real and actually do something. The previous bridge was a local landmark — it is time the Minister respected the rights of the people of Finaghy and did something to improve this situation.”
Major improvement work costing £1.4 million was carried out on the bridge in 2008 — prompted after a study of the risks of vehicle incursions onto the railway track following the Selby rail crash in 2001, in which ten people died and 82 were seriously injured.
After this crash the Department of Transport recommended that each road over a rail site on the entire rail network be assessed for risk to reduce the chances of a road vehicle reaching a railway track. Outof 124 bridges inspected in Northern Ireland, Finaghy Road North was considered to be the highest risk.
A Roads Service spokesman declined to be drawn on the unsightly aspect of the bridge but said: “Following an assessment of 124 sites in the north, 18 were identified for treatment and Finaghy Road North was considered to be the highest risk as the old red brick parapets did not meet safety standards.
“In order to reduce this risk, the walls and fences over the bridge have been replaced with high containment safety barriers.
“As a result the bridge itself has had to be strengthened, while the width of the carriageway and footway over the bridge has also been increased.”