The Infirmary Bridge, one of the most photogenic and well-used footbridges in Inverness, is to receive more than half a million pounds for much-needed repairs.
The condition of the 140-year-old Infirmary Bridge over the River Ness in the Highland capital has been giving concern for a number of years.
It supports an average of 40,000 crossings a month, rising to 68,000 at peak times.
But due to its wobbliness, it has to be closed during big events in Bught Park.
It would take up to £5m to replace the bridge, so councillors have agreed that £550,000 will be taken out of Highland Council’s coffers to fix Infirmary Bridge up for another quarter of a century’s use.
Local councillor Alex Graham has been campaigning for its preservation and was overjoyed at the news.
He said: “The 270ft long suspension footbridge is a fantastic part of the Inverness landscape and also a vital part of our city’s active travel network.
“The bridge encourages walking and cycling as well as being a fantastic part of the Inverness landscape.
“It gets heavy usage, with more than half-a-million pedestrian and cyclist movements across it every year.
“It will be 2022 before the repairs are completed, but once done the bridge’s life will be extended for a further 20-25 years.
“Locals and visitors alike will be delighted by this news.”
Bridge central to active travel
Fellow bridge campaigner Inverness West member Bill Boyd said encouraging active travel in the Highlands during the pandemic is central to all the council’s strategies, and this was exemplified in the decision to invest in Infirmary Bridge repairs to save it from further deterioration.
“There is some urgency here. Each time we inspect the bridge there is further deterioration.
“Businesses, walkers, cyclists and visitors and those I represent will value this pragmatic proposal to stem the deterioration and get another 25 years out of this key active travel bridge, and an iconic Highland landmark and monument to Victorian era engineering skills.
“I’ve even seen postcards of Infirmary Bridge in residents’ houses in Boston when I was visiting there.
“It’s identified as Inverness, world wide, a work of art.”
Doubts over funding source
Some councillors on the economy and infrastructure committee expressed doubts about the Infirmary Bridge repairs being paid for with roads funding.
Councillor Allan Henderson said: “It’s being allocated from a strategic roads project. I’m not against Infirmary Bridge getting money in any way whatsoever but I would have preferred to have seen it being done in a different way, with half the commitment made to it and half allocated, so we’re not sending the wrong message out to the funders we’re actually applying to, because they’re out there looking at what’s happening.”
But councillor Ken Gowans described the bridge as a special case.
“This is an iconic bridge right in the centre of Inverness and the money is absolutely welcome to get this job done.”
Running repairs have been regularly carried out on the bridge from the council’s £64,000 budget covering all Inverness bridge repairs, but the deterioration is now affecting its underside requiring expensive scaffolding.
The bridge had major repairs in 1977 and 1994.