Specialist teams swing into action to maintain structures

Specialist climbing teams are currently working with Island Roads to clear vegetation from some of the Island’s most hard-to-reach highways structures such as bridges and retaining walls.

The ‘rope teams’ will be undertaking surveys and clearance work at 89 structures across the Island in the first of two visits planned this year. They will return in the autumn to undertake the rest of the required work.

Around a third of the sites are bridges that support the Island’s network of highways or cycletracks. Such locations include The Cement Mills Viaduct, and the old railway tunnel, both at Cowes, Pennyfeathers Steam Bridge at Ryde, Gully Road Footbridge at Seaview, Ashey Chalk Pit Tunnel, Sandown Bridge at Morton Common, Scotchells Bridge and Skew Bridge footbridge at Lake, Cliff Bridge at Shanklin, Shepherds Chine, Atherfield and Bowbridge at Godshill.

Many of the retaining walls to be assessed and/or treated are in the Ventnor area and these include structures at the Cascades, St Alban’s Steps, Bath Road, Ocean View Road, the Chimney Steps, Belgrave Road, Esplanade Road and Alpine Road. Other retaining wall sites are at Chine Hill, Shanklin, and Church Lane, Ryde.

Victoria Keefe, Island Roads structures engineer, said it was necessary to remove vegetation as, over time, the action of roots burying into mortar and stonework undermined the strength of bridges and retaining walls. She added that each site was checked prior to work to ensure there were no nesting birds present. Any active sites would be left alone until the autumn programme.

“By their nature many of these sites are difficult to access which is why we have to bring in specialist teams using ropes and other climbing apparatus to survey and then take the appropriate action.

“Though much of this work is unseen from the highway it is nevertheless an important part of keeping the network in good order.”