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Bernera: Work begins on a new ‘bridge over the Atlantic’

Bernera Bridge
Bernera Bridge

Work has begun on a new £500,000 bridge that will ensure a lifeline link for the small island community of Bernera.

A 7.5-tonne weight ban was imposed last year on the existing 67-year-old structure between Great Bernera and Lewis after serious defects were discovered.

A replacement £500,000 crossing is to be installed as an interim measure to enable  the council bin lorry, recycling collection vehicle and road tankers to drive across to the island where 250 people live.

A Western Isles Council spokesman said: “Preliminary activity has commenced in preparation for construction work to start on the new Bernera Bridge crossing.

“Contractors are on site diverting utility services and accesses are being created to areas where geotechnical engineers will confirm rock and foundation levels.

Iain Maciver: Natives getting restless as Bernera Bridge across the Atlantic silently self-destructs

“The main construction works will commence in April in advance of the bridge components starting to arrive.

“Current estimates indicate the bridge will be in place by the end of June.”

Western Isles Council said alternative arrangements were being put in place for waste and recycling collections and the delivery of heating oil.

The current road link spans 108 feet and structural surveys show it has badly deteriorated.

Creating a substantial and long-term replacement comes with an estimated £5 million price tag.

Councillors had been told the best interim solution was a new crossing on the east side of the existing bridge.

This will comprise a long span trussed bridge supported by concrete structures at either end.

A report presented to councillors last year said: “The interim structure would have a lifespan of at least 25 years, though the nature of such a structure means there would be ongoing inspection and maintenance costs.”

The original bridge cost £70,000 and provided a 24-hour lifeline for the Great Bernera community when it was opened in July 1953, dispensing with the need to haul supplies and livestock across the sea channel by boat.

The structure was said to be the first pre-stressed concrete bridge built
in the UK, using a method developed in Belgium
to tackle the shortage of steel following the 
war.

To save them from being washed away by the fierce current, divers were lashed to scaffolding to work on the underwater foundations.

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