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MP calls for armed forces to be drafted in to build temporary rail bridge at Fordoun

Abbeyton bridge
Abbeyton bridge

A north-east MP has suggested that the British Army could be drafted in to build a temporary bridge for cars affected by the closure of a condemned railway bridge.

The local council has agreed that the 169-year-old Abbeyton Bridge, on the B966 just north of Fordoun, is to be demolished, but has yet to announce when this will happen or when it would be reinstated.

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It was first closed in July after inspectors found major failings in the structure.

Local businesses have voiced concern about the impact of the closure, while there are concerns that any replacement could take several years to build.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie has now written to the Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, asking about the “feasibility” of a short-term fix.

Mr Bowie said that a temporary crossing would maintain a “vital link” for local business, keep local residents connected and help reduce the risk of accidents.

The British Army carried out a similar role in the west of Aberdeenshire due to the flooding that followed Storm Frank in 2015.

In his letter, Mr Bowie said: “It is clear to me that in the interests of public safety that a replacement bridge must be erected as soon as possible.

“I was wondering if it would be possible for the Army to examine the feasibility of establishing a temporary crossing for cars and light vehicles, as it did for the villages that saw similar bridges and access points disrupted in the floods of 2015.

“It would also be a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the soft power capability of the Army in a part of the country which has, at present, little contact with the Armed Forces.”

The council has been plagued with problems with its ageing bridge network over the past 12 months.

The authority maintains 1,307 structures, many of them dating from the 1700s.

Earlier this year, roads bosses announced they would replace the 18th century Gairnshiel Bridge, on the Ballater to Tomintoul road, because lorries still ignore the 18 tonne weight limit.

Castleton farm owner, Anna Mitchell last night said the Abbeyton bridge closure had been a “major inconvenience” for the business which also includes a farm shop and cafe.

She welcomed any help from the MOD and said: “All the heavy goods coming to the farm have had to be diverted through the village – it’s far from ideal – the village roads are suffering.”

Last night a council spokesman said there had been no date fixed yet for the demolition at Abbeyton, but added: “We still intend to demolish it.”

An MOD Spokesman said: “We are aware that Andrew Bowie MP has written to the Minister for Armed Forces requesting support in his constituency.

“Once a formal request is received, it will be assessed in line with Military Aid to the Civil Authorities principles, which govern the deployment of military assets within UK borders.”

‘Extremely hazardous’

The wall collapse next to Fourdon’s main road and other bridge into the village has resulted in an emergency one-way system to be imposed by Aberdeenshire Council.

One resident, Norman Cameron, voiced his concern about the footpath and branded it “extremely hazardous”, he added: “The pathway has also fallen in. My grandchildren have to walk that way to school, but now it’s cordoned off – they are walking on the road.

“They need to fix this as soon as possible.”

Last night a council spokesman said: “Regarding the road bridge at Fordoun, following the implementation of the one-way system due to the collapsed carriageway, more space is now given for pedestrians using it than was there before, though all road users should exercise due caution.

“Clearly traffic is also now less busy, being only one way. There is no timescale for repair as yet, we are speaking to the owner of the building which was demolished leading to the damage to the carriageway to ascertain the next steps to allow the retaining wall/embankment to be repaired, thus allowing the road to be fully reopened.”

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