Letter: Tadcaster - So what went wrong...?

The final job the painting of the white centre  line  prior to the  Tadcaster bridge reopening.
The final job the painting of the white centre line prior to the Tadcaster bridge reopening.

Tadcaster Bridge has finally reopened. That closes another chapter of the catalogue of ineptitude of the national and local authorities that directly impacts on the day to day lives of the people who live in North Yorkshire and those who try to make a living in the county.

Everyone was let down by North Yorkshire Country Council who did not properly maintain the bridge. It should never have been allowed to get into such a state that it partially collapsed in the first place.

Everyone was let down by the Environment Agency. They did not maintain the river properly, allowing silt and debris to build up under the arches on two extremities of the bridge.

The Environment Agency and North Yorkshire County Council should hang their heads in shame as the root cause of this whole sorry episode.

Moving on from the reasons for the bridge partially collapsing in the first place, we then have how the authorities dealt with the aftermath.

The then Environment Secretary, Liz Truss and Environment Agency staff visited Tadcaster a few days after the partial collapse, with the minister saying that repairing the bridge was a “national priority”.

Thankfully the authorities managed to sort out some transport to help residents make the long road detour to travel from one side of Tadcaster to the other. A bouquet rather than a brickbat is also due for those who managed to rapidly sort out the transport for Tadcaster’s schools

What followed in mid-February was the welcome installation of a temporary footbridge once the to-be expected spat with a “local land owner” was overcome.

There was then a flurry of activity on preparatory work for bridge repair, authorisation to get the bridge footpaths widened, yet another spat between the authorities and a “local land owner”, Balfour Beatty set up camp in the car park.

Then the pace slowed to that of a snail over the spring and summer, good weather and low river levels were squandered.

In late summer the Environment agency demonstrated their lack of joined up thinking by authorising Network Rail to commence work that resulted in river levels rising in Tadcaster.

The bridge repair season was then apparently at its height, round the clock working was trumpeted by North Yorkshire County Council - really?

Most nights it was a case of the floodlights are on but nobody is at home.

Then as the original North Yorkshire County Council deadline looked less likely, more and more contractors could be seen trying to turn things around to save the face of those making the unrealistic proclamations.

We have suffered a lot of poor bridge repairing weather in the last few weeks.

What a surprise, freezing weather in North Yorkshire in January - who could have foreseen that?

The finishing line has now been passed, its approach signalled by the over regular and unrealistic announcements of the bridge opening dates.

So where has the whole sorry saga left the residents and businesses of Tadcaster? Glad it’s all over? We all hope it is. It remains to be seen if proper maintenance of the structure of the bridge, the river and its banks adjacent to the bridge is going to happen in the future.

The legacy of the neglect of North Yorkshire County Council and the Environment Agency has certainly hit the pockets of the residents, time and money spent on a long detour to travel from one side of the river to the other. It’s also hit local business, takings significantly down as customers struggled to get to their premises.

Passing traffic no longer passed through, so those who spent money in Tadcaster on their journeys to work or elsewhere did just that. They went elsewhere. We hope they pause to support the town again.

The direct cost of the bridge repairs, around £4.4 million, is going to be paid by the tax payer, a major expenditure that could have been significantly reduced or avoided completely by spending a fraction of that amount on maintenance.

In a few weeks’ time North Yorkshire County Council are going to be voting on how big a council tax rise they are going to impose for the coming year.

Let’s hope that the extra tax payers’ money is spent wisely to prevent another Tadcaster Bridge situation befalling anywhere else in North Yorkshire.

Raymond Jude