South East Wales

Hopkinstown's Smokey Bridge removal will 'destroy heritage'

Barriers obstructing the bridge Image copyright Chris Pick
Image caption Rhondda Cynon Taf council has put up a public path extinguishment order for the footpath which runs across the bridge

Members of a former coal mining community are battling to save "a piece of their heritage".

The Gyfeillion Colliery footbridge in Hopkinstown, Rhondda Cynon Taff, closed in 2014 due to safety concerns.

It is jointly-owned by Network Rail and the county council and both parties have confirmed they are progressing with plans to remove it.

Resident Chris Pick said he would be "outraged if it was demolished".

Known locally as Smokey Bridge, Mr Pick said it was one of the last remaining structures to remind the village of its "proud mining heritage".

"All the rest has been torn down and built upon," he said.

"The miners used this bridge to safely cross the railway and many of their grandchildren and great grandchildren live in Hopkinstown today.

"To tear down the bridge is to destroy their heritage."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Mr Francis said the bridge should have been listed the same time as the nearby Hetty winding house

Lyndon Francis grew up in Graigwen and spent his childhood playing in Hopkinstown.

"Smokey Bridge was and still is special to Hopkinstown people," he said.

"As kids we would stand on the bridge and watch the steam trains as they passed and the smoke would engulf us."

Stuart Caddy said: "Too many historical landmarks have been lost locally, and Hopkinstown is rightly proud of its mining heritage which is being completely ignored."

A Rhondda Cynon Taf council spokesman said the bridge was in a "very poor condition structurally" and a £1.5m investment would be needed to replace it.

They said there was a suitable alternative route for pedestrians nearby and "in almost three years since the bridge's closure, the council has received just one query from a resident about its status".

A spokesman added: "Having considered its low-usage when open, the significant cost to the public purse for its replacement and upkeep, and the future potential hazard it could cause to the railway line, a decision has been made for all parties to progress an extinguishment order on the route."

A Network Rail spokesman said it had to "balance the needs of those who are keen to retain various historical assets with their responsibility to provide a safe network with the best value for money to the taxpayer".

He said they were working closely with the council to consult with Cadw - the Welsh Government's historic environment service - on its plans to remove the bridge.

Residents have until 25 August to object to the extinguishment order.

Image copyright Chris Pick
Image caption The footbridge closed in 2014 and has fallen into a state of disrepair

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