Plymouth’s iconic Laira Rail Bridge has been opened to the public today, after lying derelict for 28 years.
A £3.5 million scheme, funded through the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, has breathed new life into the former rail bridge by converting it into a new walking and cycling route over the River Plym.
Built in 1887, the Laira Rail Bridge stopped carrying passenger trains in the 1960s and freight trains in the 1980s. The last train crossed in 1987 and the bridge then fell into disrepair.
Thanks to DfT funding for the Council’s Plymotion project, the familiar local landmark has been brought back into use as a safer, traffic-free link for walkers and cyclists.
It connects existing walking and cycling facilities near The Ride (east of the river) with the Laira Cycleway (west of the river) and forms part of the National Cycle Network Route 27.
Restoration work began last June and has included:
- Removal of the old timbers and rails, along with an abandoned gas main
- Grit blasting, localised repairs and full repaint of the ironwork
- Installation of a new deck and parapets
- Construction of a new length of cycleway linking the western end of the bridge to the existing cycleway
- Installation of new lighting along the length of the bridge, including state-of-the-art feature lighting.
The main contractor and sub-contractor for the works were South West Highways and Taziker Industrial.
Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “It will be great to see this iconic rail bridge back in use. The new link has been almost a year in the making and we are really excited to be finally opening it to walkers and cyclists in time for Sky Ride Plymouth on Sunday 31 May.
“The Laira Rail Bridge scheme has delivered an important part of our east-to-west cycling route and will soon be enhanced by improvements between Saltram and the Plym Valley, thanks to funding from the Department for Transport’s Cycle Ambition Fund.
“We’ve also brought forward work to provide a new bridge over The Ride as part of this project and, in the longer term, we plan to extend the pedestrian and cycle path further along the old railway alignment to Saltram Meadow and beyond.