Work Begins on Restoration of Reading’s Historic Horseshoe Bridge
- Work to clean and repaint Reading's 130 year old Horseshoe Bridge begins on Monday
- Second phase of works later this year will improve safety
WORK to clean and refurbish Reading’s historic Horseshoe Bridge begins next week.
Graffiti which blights the historic listed structure will be carefully cleaned off by Network Rail contractors and it will then be repainted in heritage appropriate colours.
Work begins on Monday 21 March and is expected to last for 10 days, depending on weather conditions. The footpath leading to both ends of the Horseshoe Bridge will be closed for the period but will be opened earlier if work finishes more quickly.
Pedestrians are being advised the footpath will be closed near to Tesco with a signed diversion under the Napier Road tunnel, along Kenavon Drive and over the Kenavon Drive footbridge, onto Liverpool Road and then London Road, and then onto Thames Valley Park, where the footpath will be closed to the east of the Dreadnought. The Kennetside footpath will also be closed east of its junction with Cumberland Road.
Network Rail’s second phase of work, which takes place later this year, will see the removal of the bridge’s wood panels which will be replaced with an open mesh wiring to improve visibility lines and increase safety for pedestrians. This will also allow the bridge to be returned as closely as possible to the original design and pedestrians will be able to gain a better appreciation for the attractive 'cross-bar' construction of the bridge and the historic brick railway bridge behind it.
Longer term, the Council and Network Rail intend to work with the local community to explore the possibility of a 'community mural' created by local artists on the historic brick bridge, with materials funded by Network Rail.
A community plaque, which was attached to the bridge in the mid-1990’s to mark the defeat of Berkshire County Council’s controversial ‘Cross Town Route’ plans, will be taken into safe storage by the Council while the work takes place. The Council will then consult with the local community on the refitting of the plaque to the bridge at the appropriate time.
Listed building consent will be required from the Council’s planning department for the second phase of works to replace the wooden panels with the open wire mesh, and for the community mural.
The historic Horseshoe Bridge listed structure dates back to 1892 and is attached to Brunel’s adjoining brick railway bridge, which itself opened in 1839.
Tony Page, the Council’s Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, approached Network Rail at the end of last year about the unsightly condition of the bridge, with Network Rail moving swiftly to take action.
Cllr Page said:
“I’m certain that the local community, like myself, will be thrilled to see work starting imminently on cleaning and renovating this historic structure. The Horseshoe Bridge remains a well-used route from Newtown and beyond into the town centre. Regular users will know only too well that it is almost completely obscured with unsightly graffiti and with very poor sightlines.
“This first phase of work will see the bridge cleaned and repainted in heritage colours. Later this year the wooden panels will be replaced with wire mesh to improve sightlines and safety and make the historic adjoining brick railway bridge visible from the ground - for the first time in generations.
“There is of course a short term downside with the temporary closure of the footpath, which will mean a significant diversion for users. We thank pedestrians for their patience while this long overdue work takes place. I hope that when the work is complete all users of the bridge will agree that the temporary inconvenience was well worthwhile.”
Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, added:
“The cleaning and repainting of the bridge in heritage colours will instantly improve the look and feel of this historic 130 year old structure. When the project is fully complete later this year, it will allow views of the historic brick bridge for the first time in many decades, including enabling the original open-work cross-bar design of the bridge to be better appreciated.
“I’d like to thank colleagues at Network Rail again for their swift response to lobbying from the Council and look forward to this key heritage listed structure being restored to its former glory as a result.”
Tim Porter, asset engineer (structures) at Network Rail, said:
“We’re pleased to be working with Reading Borough Council to clean-up Horseshoe Bridge by removing the unsightly graffiti. Our first phase of the clean-up will begin on Monday 21 March and later this year we’ll be working to restore the historic structure to its original open aesthetic, enhancing the area for the local community.
“I’d like to thank local residents for their patience while we carry out the clean-up, which will mean that the footpath will be temporarily closed.
“We hope to continue working with Reading Borough Council and the local community to ensure that the structure remains graffiti free and attractive to all in the future.”
Notes to editors
A map of the pedestrian diversion is attached