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Community National News Neath Port Talbot South Wales

Historic footbridge in Blaendulais reopens after major repairs by Network Rail

A community in South Wales has welcomed the reopening of the historic Seven Sisters footbridge after a £700,000 facelift by Network Rail.

The bridge, which crosses the Neath and Brecon freight line at Blaendulais, had been closed for more than three years after an engineers’ safety inspection found it required major repairs.

The wrought-iron lattice work and timber deck of the structure, as well as the stairs and supports, all needed replacing, repairing or strengthening.

The deck was lifted out by crane and replaced with a new span made from Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) resin, a polymer made from recycled waste plastic which will last for the next 60 years.

Repairs were carried out to strengthen the stairs and new handrails were fitted, while the metalwork was grit-blasted and given a new coat of long-lasting paint. The finishing touch was to add tactile paving to the bottom of the staircase.

Network Rail’s lead portfolio manager in the integrated infrastructure team Richard Compton said: “The footbridge was originally built in 1863 and while some maintenance has been carried out over the years, it has required a great deal of work both on and off site to restore it to its original condition and bring it back into use for the community.

“While Seven Sisters was closed, the villagers were able to cross the railway using a nearby road bridge but were very keen to have the historic footbridge reopened – some of them have been using it daily for decades.

“We are pleased to have completed the work, providing the community with a safer, stronger structure that will last for the next generation.”

Local ward member and leader of Neath Port Talbot county borough council Councillor Steve Hunt said: “I am thrilled to announce the successful completion of a significant restoration project undertaken by Network Rail and their dedicated contractors. 

“The bridge is a symbol of our rich mining history here in Seven Sisters and this joint effort to preserve the past for the future has breathed new life into an essential piece of our heritage.

“This remarkable project was not just about repairing and refurbishing an iconic bridge, but it was an ode to the craftsmanship and engineering excellence of the past. The bridge holds a special place in our community’s heart, and the restoration has been a labour of love for all involved.

“The renovation work has entailed meticulous attention to detail, from restoring the bridge’s architectural features to ensuring its structural integrity for generations to come.

“The collaboration between Network Rail and its contractors exemplifies our shared dedication to safeguarding our historical landmarks, even while ensuring modern safety standards and operational efficiency.

“I would finally like to thank the community of Seven Sisters and Kelvin Roberts, in particular, who worked tirelessly with me and in the community to ensure this bridge was reopened.”