Motorists hit with 24-mile detour to allow essential repairs on vulnerable north-east bridge

© SuppliedThe Gairnshiel Bridge regularly suffers damage from being hit by vehicles.
The Gairnshiel Bridge regularly suffers damage from being hit by vehicles.

Motorists will face a 24-mile detour for two weeks to allow essential repairs to be carried out on a vulnerable Donside bridge.

It is the second time in less than a year that Gairnshiel Bridge has required repairs following crashes.

The 18th century crossing, which forms part of the A939 Ballater to Tomintoul road, has been beset with problems for years as heavy goods vehicles continue to ignore the 18-tonne weight limit.

Its northern end also lies at the end of a winding hill, meaning drivers sometimes misjudge the entrance and collide with the structure.

When the route is closed it means people travelling from either direction have to take a significant detour.

The bridge has had to be shut a number of times in the past 12 months after crashes made it unsafe.

In May, it was closed for two weeks to allow for repairs but just days after these were made another accident took place.

Now roads bosses have been forced to take similar action from February 4 after another accident just before Christmas.

Geva Blackett, Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor, successfully campaigned for an alternative bridge to be built, to help safeguard the future of the old structure.

She said: “Every time the bridge is closed and the route disrupted, businesses suffer as do people’s social lives – the diversion adds considerable mileage and time to journeys.

“I have urged the council to install a camera so that damage can be recorded as it happens and repair bills sent to the perpetrator because frankly the council has better things to spend its money on than continual repairs required because of the actions of a third party.”

The new bridge will be built across the River Gairn, to the east of the existing one but will not be open for another two years.

The closure comes just weeks after Aberdeenshire was named the worst local authority in Scotland for the number of bridges in need of maintenance.

Figures from the RAC Foundation reveal that 65 of the 1,800 bridges on the council’s roads are substandard.

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “This latest closure shows how sorely needed a new bridge is and I will be contacting Aberdeenshire Council to seek an update on its plans for a replacement bridge given the importance of the route to the Speyside economy.”

Donald MacPherson, Aberdeenshire Council’s structures manager, said the bridge would be closed from February 4.

He said: “Motorists should use the diversion on the A93 and A97 between Dinnet and Strathdon.

“There will be further repairs which will be carried out in spring which will result in an additional closure of the bridge.”