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£1.68 million plans to electrify Cross Keys Swing Bridge at Sutton Bridge… which acts as Lincolnshire’s gateway to Norfolk

A £1.68 million project to electrify the Cross Keys Swing Bridge will be discussed by councillors next week.

The historic Sutton Bridge landmark is Lincolnshire’s gateway to Norfolk, allowing vehicles to cross the River Nene along the A17.

On Monday, Lincolnshire County Council’s Transport Scrutiny Committee will consider proposals to convert the swing bridge – which opens throughout the week to allow ships to pass between Wisbech and the North Sea – to be operated by electric motors instead of its current hydraulic system.

Cross Keys Bridge at Sutton Bridge
Cross Keys Bridge at Sutton Bridge

The council’s report states it is expected this would lead to ‘improved consistency of operation’ for the bridge, built in 1897, ‘aligned with an overall more responsive system’.

Changes are being considered in a bid to avoid ‘significant consequences’ for either road or river traffic were the bridge fail to move.

“The current risks to Lincolnshire County Council in being the responsible authority for the management of the bridge are significant,” the report added.

“Its failure to operate would cause major disruption to road and/or river traffic, which would have significant local, regional and potentially national consequences.

“The latter would be due to the A17 over it being a key route for the agri-food industry based in Lincolnshire and Norfolk.”

The report lists advantages it expects to be brought by electrification, including: maintenance cost savings of around £40,000 per year; the removal of pollution risks which come with operation a hydraulic system over a river and the reduction in plant and equipment and therefore risks of small failures having significant impacts

It adds that these changes would also reduce ‘reliance on ageing elements of the bridge, which would present an ongoing inherent risk of failure if their use remained’.

Of the planned £1.68 million cost, £480,000 has already been allocated to overhaul the existing hydraulic and PLC systems.

“There has been significant additional use of the bridge over recent years, with the full year of 2021 seeing an increase in openings of 65% compared with 2017,” the report added.

“Although shipping levels dropped during the pandemic, they are expected to fully recover in coming years.

“As a result, a project has already been initiated to overhaul/replace the programmable logic controller and hydraulic plant and machinery that currently operate the bridge.

“This project recognises the need for work to be done to improve the resilience of the bridge and address current operational pressures resulting from the current system.”

The bridge underwent £1.5 million paint and repair works last year.

The report recommends the project be approved.

Following Monday’s discussion a decision will be taken by leader Coun Martin Hill in December.

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