- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Assembly Member Joyce Watson is calling on Network Rail and Gwynedd Council to “get it together” to keep open pedestrian access to Barmouth Bridge.
The footbridge is owned by Network Rail. It charges Gwynedd Council a 10% annual maintenance fee – currently £30,800 – in exchange for a licence to use the bridge.
Now Gwynedd Council is consulting the public on whether to save money by closing the spectacular Victorian viaduct to walkers and cyclists. So far more than 41,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to drop the plan.
On Saturday 31 October, Mrs Watson will join campaigners for a day of walking and cycling action on the bridge.
The Mid and West Wales member has called on Network Rail to waive or reduce the charge, citing the budget squeeze on local authorities. In a letter to Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne, Mrs Watson writes:
“I have been communicating with Gwynedd County Council on behalf of constituents who are concerned about reports that pedestrian access to the Barmouth bridge could be lost in order to save the council £30,800. The council have told me that this is the amount that they pay Network Rail for pedestrians crossing the viaduct. I am sure that you are aware of the financial pressures that local authorities across the UK are experiencing.
“I am writing to you today to ask if Network Rail would consider waiving this charge, or reducing it, so that the risk to local residents and visitors of losing access to this popular route is removed.”
Joyce also raised the issue at the National Assembly for Wales. Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday (21 October), the Labour AM, herself a keen walker and photographer, suggested that closing the bridge would hit tourism and called on transport and economy minister Edwina Hart to help find a solution
Joyce Watson AM said:
“Given the (Barmouth Bridge) walkway’s strategic importance as a key link in both the coastal path and the national cycle network, which attracts thousands of visitors to the area, I wonder, Minister, if you could somehow use your good offices to get these two sides together, Gwynedd Council and Network Rail, to arrive at a solution that actually keeps that bridge open?”
The minister responded:
“I think we all recognise the importance of the facility to communities and tourists alike. However, Gwynedd is including this in a list of possible cost savings that it is consulting on in the autumn, and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the public consultation, but as soon as I am aware of the outcome, it might then be appropriate for me to approach Network Rail.”
Joyce Watson is a member of the National Assembly for Wales committees for business and the environment.