Work starts on Laira Rail Bridge scheme

Work to breathe new life into Plymouth’s disused Laira Rail Bridge is now under way.

The £3.1 million scheme, funded through the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, will see the former rail bridge restored and converted 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. It is believed the last train crossed the bridge in 1987 and since then it has fallen into disrepair.

The new scheme will bring the familiar local landmark back into use as an important travel route by creating a safer, traffic-free link for walkers and cyclists. It will connect existing walking and cycling facilities near The Ride (east of the river) with the Laira Cycleway (west of the river) and form part of the National Cycle Network Route 27.

The old timbers and rail tracks have been removed in preparation for the works, along with an abandoned gas main. Work to refurbish and strengthen the fabric of the bridge structure is now getting get under way, starting with grit blasting to the ironwork ahead of a full repaint.

A new deck and parapets will be installed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, including a steel access ramp at the eastern end of the bridge and a new length of cycleway linking the bridge to the existing Laira cycleway at the western end. Lighting will also be installed along the length of the bridge and cycleway ramp.

Most of the works are taking place off-road, away from busy traffic routes, so there should be minimal disruption to the highway network.

Councillor Mark Coker, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “This is a really exciting scheme that will breathe new life into the Laira Rail Bridge and create a safer, traffic-free link for cyclists and walkers. The bridge has been lying dormant for over 20 years so it will be great to see it refurbished and brought back into use.”

The Laira Rail Bridge walking and cycling scheme will draw on the £4.33 million provided by the DfT for the Council’s three-year Plymotion project.