Fife Council approves extra £5.7m for Leven Rail Bridge

A plan to spend £5.7 million more than anticipated on the replacement of Leven’s Rail Bridge has been backed by councillors.

By Craig Smith
Friday, 21st January 2022, 1:18 pm
The extra cash will help ensure there is no need for a five-mile diversion.
The extra cash will help ensure there is no need for a five-mile diversion.

Members of Fife Council’s policy and co-ordination committee have approved the new business case for the Bawbee Bridge project after hearing that failure to finish the bridge works before the Levenmouth Rail Link reopens at the end of 2023 could cost the local authority upwards of £13 million in additional construction costs.

A temporary diversion road and bridge link – which could last up to a year – will now be created over the River Leven to avoid a five-mile diversion and minimise disruption as soon as possible while work on the new bridge is carried out.

Just £2.5 million had initially been set aside for the replacement bridge, but the timescales for the reintroduction of Levenmouth Rail Link focused the minds.

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A temporary diversion will now be created.

Councillors were presented with a range of options, but favoured the extra spend on the option to harmonise the bridge replacement work alongside work to restore passenger rail services to the town by December 2023.

Committee chair and council co-leader Councillor David Alexander said: “The first budget we had, we didn’t know we would be getting a rail link, we didn’t know it was going to be electrified.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a very positive outcome.”

The replacement, which has been years in the pipeline, is needed because the existing bridge is in a deteriorating condition and the 18-tonne weight limit currently in place limits the economic vitality and accessibility within the area.

A report to councillors confirmed that the scope of works required had changed over time, and now included the design and installation of new bridge abutments and the need for higher parapets because of the live electrified rail line.

One option was to wait until the rail link was up and running, but estimates put the total cost for that at over £13 million.

Another option, which would cost £6.2 million, would be to carry out the work without a temporary bridge, but that would introduce the lengthy five-mile diversions for motorists heading between Methil and Leven over the 47-month construction period.

Various sources are now being explored to fund the shortfall, including a £6.3 million bid to the Levelling Up Fund.

However, councillors were assured that money was available via contingencies in the council’s capital fund.

Campaigners who fought for the Levenmouth Rail Link last week expressed concern over the increase in costs, with Eugene Clarke, member of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign, suggesting people would be “horrified” at the rising price tag.

He also said there was a risk of the council not completing the work on time, adding: “If it doesn’t it will raise serious questions about the council’s ability to manage transport projects.”

But council co-leader David Ross said: “It is to some extent unfortunate that there is more deterioration in the bridge and we have to do more, but the project has changed completely and actually getting in and doing this now is a positive step forward.

“We’re doing it in this way because it’s the best way of integrating it with the overall rail programme and the best way to ensure there are no delays.”