Council chiefs have moved to accelerate repair work on a crumbling north-east bridge after motorists were spotted removing a police cordon to cross over.
The span, just off the A948 Ellon to New Deer road at Inkhorn near Auchnagatt, has been closed for some time after large chunks of stonework crashed onto the abandoned Formartine and Buchan railway line below.
Traffic cones were placed at both ends of the bridge and the route taped-off by police amidst fears for public safety. Warning signs were also erected.
Aberdeenshire Council had planned to begin repair work on Thursday, but it will now commence today after a tractor and its trailer was seen driving through the restrictions on Sunday evening.
It’s understood they had cast aside the barriers to do so, with the local authority confirming it has passed photographic evidence of the incident to the police.
Yesterday, debris from the wall’s stonework – understood to have been struck by one or more of the agricultural vehicles that make regular use of the bridge – was visible on the roadway.
Local authority officials said repair work will begin today and have urged road users to “respect” the road closure that will remain in place.
As part of the project, teams will install new road features in an effort to protect the bridge from future accident damage.
A spokesman for the council said: “We were planning to start work on the bridge on Thursday.
“This work includes the installation of cast iron bell bollards in order to protect the bridge pilasters, which are damaged frequently by farm traffic.
“These works have now been brought forward and will start today.”
He added: “We would ask road users to respect the current road closure.
“A tractor with trailer was seen going over the bridge after it was taped-off by police and plastic barriers, traffic cones and signs erected. These had been moved to allow access.
“Photographic evidence has been passed to police.
“Clearly we’d also ask people to respect all local bridges and negotiate them with care, as an important part of the area’s infrastructure and roads network.”
Aberdeenshire’s bridges plagued by problems
The council has been plagued by problems with its extensive and ageing bridge network over the past 12 months.
The authority currently maintains 1,307 structures which are part of the public road network, many of them dating back to the 1700s.
Within the last few weeks, the council announced Abbeyton Bridge, near Fordoun, would be demolished because of the danger it posed to motorists and the railway line below.
The announcement came just weeks after Spittal Bridge, which connects Banchory and Fettercairn, had to be closed for repairs after a lorry crashed into it.
There are regular accidents at the 200-year-old structure ,which means motorists are faced with a 50-mile diversion.
And earlier this year, roads bosses announced they would replace the 18th Century Gairnshiel Bridge, on the A939 Ballater to Tomintoul road, because heavy goods traffic continues to ignore the 18 tonne weight limit.
The bridge has been beset with frequent closures over the years as vehicles regularly crash into its northern end.