People are being forced to walk a 42-minute diversion down the River Mersey while a footbridge is closed for repairs which could take up to nine months – but some are ignoring the signs and crossing the ‘unsafe’ structure anyway.
The Jackson’s Boat bridge which connects Chorlton to Sale was fenced off after Manchester city council deemed it too dangerous to be used by the public.
But the nearest alternative crossings, at Chorlton Water Park or Stretford Ees, are more than a mile away adding 42 minutes to the journey for those walking.
And the Local Democracy Reporting Service has seen evidence of people ignoring the signs and crossing over the bridge, disregarding the warnings.
Claire Stocks, who lives in Chorlton, often crosses the bridge on her daily walk.
She said: “Jackson’s Boat bridge is a very old and much loved structure, used by hundreds of people every single day to walk or cycle around the area, and is a commuting link between Sale and Manchester.
“I know council resources are tight, but we don’t feel the council is treating this as seriously as it would if it was for instance a road, even though it has high use.
“The bridge has been deteriorating for some years and the issues that have now forced its closure – loose planks on the footway as we understand it – might have been avoided with some maintenance.
“The councils are going to have to spend some money one way or another – unless the new plan is to simply close the bridge which is unacceptable and which would create a lot of opposition – and we would like that conversation to be had with residents and users of the area.”
Sam Tate, who describes himself as an active travel advocate, welcomed the work being carried out, but said the diversion – which is 10 minutes by bicycle – is not ‘fit for purpose’ given the length of time the repairs are expected to take.
He says the alternatives along the river paths, which are made of brick and large gravel, are ‘extremely uneven’ and not accessible for wheelchair users.
He has called on Manchester city council to create a temporary scaffold bridge to be used to replace the ‘important link’ in the local walking and cycling network.
He said: “It would be a shame to lose the bridge if it comes to that as it’s an attractive historical feature, but it hasn’t been fit for purpose for some time.
“It would be good if the councils could use this period to get the proposed parallel accessible bridge back on track and built as soon as possible.
“While works are ongoing, it’d be nice to see suitable surfacing for the diversion paths quickly laid along the Mersey to make them usable for all – a temporary bridge would be useful, but a surfacing upgrade would have permanent benefits.
“Perhaps Metrolink could offer free journeys and allow bikes between Barlow Moor Road and Sale Water Park to get people across in the meantime.”
Chorlton councillors say a permanent repair or bridge replacement is required.
They said a temporary bridge instalation is being looked at as an option – but it would cost in the region of £220,000, according to engineers at the town hall.
Manchester city council is also investigating the option of using a nearby utility bridge owned by Electricity North West as an interim measure during repairs.
The Chorlton residents also want Trafford Council to revisit previous plans from 2017 to build a new wider and accessible bridge and improve the paths.
A spokesperson for Trafford Council said the scheme did not progress due to budget uncertainty, but the local authority is still keen to bring it forward.
A Manchester city council spokesperson said: “Following a recent inspection of Jackson’s Bridge it became clear that degradation to the surface posed an immediate and unacceptable risk to the public if it was kept open.
“As the bridge is a listed structure approvals are required before work can commence, therefore it is difficult to give a definitive timescale at this early stage.
“A diversion will be put in place for the duration of these works, and the council is grateful for the understanding of residents as this essential maintenance is carried out.”
The council has urged people to stop breaching the temporary site security fencing to cross the bridge which has been deemed dangerous and unsafe.
Chorlton councillors have said there is a ‘serious risk of harm and danger’.
They said: “We know this is an inconvenience to many people but it is being dealt with and it is a complicated piece of work.”
Trans Pennine Trail said it is aware of the ’emergency closure’ to the broken bridge which is not directly on the trail, but is a ‘key link’ for local communities.
A spokesperson said: “Our partners at Manchester are providing details of the diversion as soon as possible. Safety of Trail users is paramount at all times.”