“Severe disruption and inconvenience” to villagers has prompted a vigorous campaign for the replacement of a Mearns bridge which was pulled down during a £1 million Christmas operation.
The crumbling 170-year-old Abbeyton Bridge north of Fordoun – also known locally as the Cocketty Bridge – was threatening to collapse on the East Coast Mainline.
The bridge was closed in July after inspections found serious structural failings in the stonework.
The nature of the ribbed elliptical masonry arched bridge made it an extremely complicated structure to work on and repair was not an option.
Work started at 10pm on Christmas Eve after the last train of the day passed and was completed on Christmas Day, when no trains were running.
Aberdeenshire Council said no decision has been made on whether or not Abbeyton Bridge should be replaced but Mearns councillors are backing a new structure being put in place.
Mearns SNP councillor Leigh Wilson said: “Discussions are ongoing regarding the replacement of the bridge.
“Ultimately, although the four ward councillors are campaigning vigorously for a new bridge, we are four out of 70 councillors in Aberdeenshire and that makes trying to allocate funding quite difficult.
“I haven’t given up hope that funding can be unlocked from somewhere because we have seen with Fordoun the consequences of all the traffic being diverted through there.
“These kind of issues have to be factored into the decision making process.”
Mearns Conservative councillor George Carr said: “This will be a political decision to replace Abbeyton bridge.
“I chaired the councillor meeting on this matter at which 140 residents attended on December 18 at Fordoun Memorial Hall.
“Council officers will report back on January 22 and the first priority will be to see the Fordoun bridge re-opened to traffic as the village is currently split in half.
“This is causing severe disruption and inconvenience to residents.
“Utilities are currently assessing the routing of cables and poles, so only after that work is done and the road stabilised, can we look at opening the bridge to traffic again.
“The next priority is to consider the business case for a replacement bridge at Abbeyton. The closure of Abbeyton has been the catalyst for the damage to the road in Fordoun and to other roads in the vicinity which were never designed for the displaced levels of traffic.”
The cost of the demolition alone was in the region of £1m, more than one-third of the council’s £2.8m annual budget for bridges and other structures.
Aberdeenshire Council said significant investment would be required to replace the bridge and the authority said that would have to be considered in the context of current budget provision.
The council has thousands of ageing crossings across the region, a number of which require repairs, including Gairnshiel Bridge in Deeside and Spittal Bridge on Cairn O’Mount.
Aberdeenshire Council recently came out top on a list of authorities with defective bridges across Scotland.
Figures in the RAC Foundation report revealed that 65 of the 1,800 bridges on the council’s road network were classed as substandard – with more needing repairs than in any other region.