Woodford road bridge to stay closed due shortage of funds to fix it

A broken road bridge in north east London which has been shut to motor vehicles for almost a year will stay closed for “a significant amount of time” due to a lack of funds to fix it.

The price tag to repair Broadmead Road Bridge in Woodford – which carries four lanes of traffic over the Central line – is thought to be “over £25million and potentially significantly more”.

The bridge was closed by its owner, Labour-run Redbridge Council, in July 2023 “because of safety concerns following a visual inspection which identified cracks, falling concrete and concrete corrosion on the legs, spans and underside” of the structure, the authority said.

But the council argues it is “not feasible” to pay for the repairs out of its own budget, due to “the impact of Government funding cuts”. To reopen the bridge “will require extensive construction work and is expected to take a significant amount of time,” the authority adds.

The council says on its website: “Having lost around 63 per cent of government funding since 2010, councils across the country are in an incredibly difficult financial position.

“In Redbridge, the impact of Government funding cuts and extra demand means we have around £230million less to spend on public services every year.

“As a result funding projects of this magnitude is not feasible within our budget and so it is vital funding be provided through the Department for Transport (DfT)”.

Local Tory MP Sir Ian Duncan Smith told the BBC that the council is talking “absolute nonsense about this”.

He said: “The council knows it was always the reality that councils have the responsibility for these bridges.

“There was never any doubt… And so instead of shouting ‘the Government’s fault, the Government’s fault’ and playing politics with it, why not recognise most of the people in this area are simply having lives really messed around because the council has done nothing to sort this out?”

He says the council needs to communicate with Transport for London (TfL) and see if there are any extra funds.

But the position of TfL – which has a number of its own assets to repair and maintain – is that the bridge is the council’s responsibility.

Redbridge Council has an £800million annual budget but the authority’s leader, Jas Athwal, says other funding responsibilities have had to take priority over the bridge.

He said to the BBC: “Every year 75 per cent of our funding goes on adult social care, children social services and of course, these are real human beings that we must look after and we’re doing that.

“To cut those services, decimate them, is not a choice that we are willing to make.

“The government has to fork out.”

A DfT spokesman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The London Borough of Redbridge owns Broadmead Bridge and it is for them to determine the best course of action to repair and maintain.”

A letter from TfL in 2014 told the council that TfL engineers had concerns about the bridge’s condition. It also said “failure to take action could potentially lead to injury or service loss with the ensuing legal actions”.

Redbridge Council says it carried out a range of inspections following TfL’s letter in 2014 and repairs were carried out to concrete areas and the joints. However, it says the bridge was constructed in 1937 and has now come to the end of its life.

According to the BBC, engineers are currently writing the principal inspection report from inspections undertaken during the autumn and winter for the council to review and approve.

The next survey will involve concrete testing to determine the bridge’s strength and level of deterioration.

It will also allow structural engineers to assess the bridge’s current capacity and provide details for a report to be presented to the council, explaining the options for what it can do to reopen the bridge.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter