Bridgnorth Cliff Railway begins months' long closure due to 'dangerous' council wall
The Bridgnorth Cliff Railway has been forced to close, potentially until Easter, as a result of a "dangerous" deteriorating wall on a neighbouring council property.
Bridgnorth's popular attraction suddenly closed on Wednesday as a result of work needed to rebuild a retaining wall owned by Bridgnorth Town Council.
The sudden closure which is expected to last for several months has sparked concern from the director of the railway, as jobs could be at risk if the attraction does not receive financial support.
Director of the railway, Dr Malvern Tipping, said: "This is a matter beyond our direct control and the town council will have to consider the losses for us. We have staff to pay, otherwise they could get laid off. We don't know at this stage.
"We have been monitoring the situation since we saw a presentation on a similar problem from another vehicular railway. Engineers reported concerns about the deterioration of the retaining wall and said that it's dangerous - if it bursts it could affect the safety of the railway.
"The landowner on whose land the wall sits has been notified and the cliff railway is working with Bridgnorth Town Council to ensure that the works are completed as soon as possible.
"In the meantime, we have taken the decision to close the cliff railway whilst further investigations are carried out and an engineering solution on the adjoining land is affected."
The director also wonders if a recurrent issue of blocked drains in the area near the railway and the castle have exacerbated the issue due to high water pressure.
Mr Tipping expressed concern last year about potential issues with drainage which would be harder to spot, but claims that "no one cared" about investigating it.
The closure of the railway for the coming months is a blow for local residents who use it to travel between High Town and Low Town, but could also have serious repercussions for the local economy.
Mr Tipping said: "There will be two effects: on local passengers who use the service every day to go to work or the shops - although a lot stay at home more as a result of the pandemic - and to tourists.
"We've had a big boost in passenger travel from tourists, so this will create a big problem if they are now disinclined to come to the town. This will hit the local economy so we're pushing for this job to be done quickly."
Locals are already missing the service, with general manager Karl Braden being "inundated with calls" today from would-be passengers questioning why the railway was closed.
However, the service is not likely to return until at least Easter, leaving people searching for alternate transport between the two areas of the town.
A statement on the railway's website says: "We appreciate that local passengers and businesses, as well as tourists, will be anxious that we re-open and resume normal service as soon as possible.
"We are pressing the other parties to complete their works expeditiously so as to enable a re-opening for Easter, 2023. We thank all our passengers for their patience and support."
In a statement Bridgnorth Town Council said: "Bridgnorth Town Council working in partnership with Bridgnorth Cliff Railway have made a decision to temporarily close the funicular railway. It is anticipated that this closure will be up until at least Easter 2023.
"A structural defect in a retaining wall has been identified with a requirement for remedial works to be carried out. Bridgnorth Town Council will be working with specialist structural and civil engineers together with partner agencies over the next few months to ensure the works are carried out sympathetically in the conservation area with as little disruption as possible.
"It is anticipated that once the remedial works begin there will be a need to close the Castle Walk for an unspecified period of time.
"Both the Town Council and Bridgnorth Cliff Railway are aware of the impact this temporary closure will have on residents, businesses and visitors. However, it is hoped that the closure at this time of the year will have a minimum impact to those who use the cliff railway."
Councillor Karen Sawbridge, mayor of Bridgnorth said: "We are so very proud of the Cliff Railway and its heritage within our community and the town of Bridgnorth. The town council want to ensure that any works completed secure the future enjoyment of residents and visitors to Bridgnorth who use this historical funicular railway."