In late November 2022, disappointing news started to filter out that the Barrow Railway Bridge opening span was to be pinned open because of an operational issue. It came following an earlier threat to pin it open because of the cost of the operation- a decision that was postponed following negative community, media, and political reactions. But the rationale for the move seemed plausible to many (the timing close to Christmas was excellent I must say from the company perspective), and the opening span has been pinned open since December. But is this the end of the Barrow Bridge?
The Barrow Railway Bridge was opened as part of the works to connect the South of Ireland via Waterford to the new port of Rosslare in 1906. The last commercial train to use the line was in September 2010. The line’s viability is now being examined as part of an All Island Strategic Rail Review. The review might potentially reinstate the railway, but there were also plans to create a greenway along the route. The opening span allows ships to access and egress from the inland port of New Ross via the River Barrow.
On February 26th, 2022, a ship maneuvering inwards through the span struck the central protective dolphin. In November Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) put out a press release covered by the Waterford News & Star. The subsequent article explained that “the span will need to be held open for marine traffic as there’s an increased risk of it becoming inoperable, thus preventing vessels from traversing through it.”
Because of the collision, IÉ stated that there was a “… real risk that in the course of movements of the swing span, the span could move and strike a passing vessel” It sounds nasty, although a bit far-fetched surely! Other points were raised, although it made no more sense to me. But please read the New & Star article yourself to make your own decision.
According to IÉ the repairs could cost between €5 million and €10 million. The funds will need to be sought from the ship’s insurers…So that probably won’t be any time soon, given that almost 11 months have now passed? The South East on Track campaign group called on Iarnród Éireann to carry out the repairs in advance of monies it’s hoping to receive from insurers, but to date, this call has fallen on deaf ears.
The opening span of the bridge was a crucial factor in alleviating the concerns of the New Ross Harbour commissioners when the bridge was originally constructed. It’s kind of ironic that the potential death knell of this magnificent piece of Edwardian industrial heritage should be sundered by IÉ on the pretext of maintaining access to the port.
Edit March 2023 – although there is still talk of the bridge reopening to cater for, initially, freight to and from Rosslare, there is no sign of work commencing on the bridge. In fact a local chap who knew the workmen who were involved in the recent pinning opening says that all papers etc have been removed and the sense given was that this was the end as far as they knew. I got excited on the 12th of March when I saw a Belgian ship called the Pompei coming in. Obviously a work boat, I hoped that it might be in relation to some repairs. Alas, it seems not, and worse, it actually struck the bridge on the way up too. Later it emerged that the ship was to be stationed off Baginbun for works associated with the new interconnector between France and Ireland…works are ongoing at Great Island to recieve the French power! Nuclear no doubt.
On the week of the anniversary of the opening in 2023, Deena and I took a trip over to view the bridge, It’s now securely locked up, still pinned open, and rusting away. No further information on repair work to the opening span, or to refurbishing the line…or indeed a greenway. It’s hard not to be pessimistic about its future.
I occasionally write small pieces for my own record that I publish on the blog. These are a way of keeping a record for myself and a very different style to my monthly heritage blogs. So if you came across this and wondered what the heck…please look at my normal stuff before rushing to judgement