Metal theft last week forced a South Wales local authority to shut a pedestrian and cycle bridge and left it with a substantial repair bill.
Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council had to close the £850,000 single span, cable stayed Puddlers Bridge, after thieves stole 912m of stainless steel wire forming parts of the bridge’s parapet.
“We had to close the bridge,” said Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council senior design and structures engineer Carwyn Morris.
“There are huge gaps [in the parapet] that people could fall through onto the road.”
Morris said the bridge is likely to be shut for several weeks while engineers carry out repairs.
He said the estimated cost of the repairs is £12,000, but the scrap value of the wire stolen was just £20.
The theft happened 14 months after the bridge opened. It crosses the A4060 and sits on the Trevithick Trail cycle and pedestrian path between Pentrebach with Merthyr town centre.
The bridge’s main span is 33.1m long. There is a 10m approach ramp on the east and a 44m approach ramp on the west. Its deck width is 2.5m.
Thieves stole wires from both approach ramps. The parapets incorporate 12, 8mm diameter stainless steel wires which prevent users from falling onto the carriageway below.
Morris said the thieves used bolt cutters to remove the wires. The council intends to repair the parapet using 12mm thick metal bars to prevent further thefts.
“The bars will be harder to steal,” said Morris.
The existing wires are 20m long and pass through holes in metal posts positioned at 2m intervals.
The new bars will be just 2m long attached to the metal posts with anti-theft collars.
Morris said there are a number of other bridges across the council that incorporate wires in their parapets. But given the ease of theft, he will not be using them again.
“We will definitely not be using wires again,” said Morris. “I don’t think wires are the way to go. Solid bars are much better.”
Morris confirmed that money will be diverted from other highway projects to pay for the repair.
Puddlers Bridge was designed by Merthyr Tydfil council and fabricated and installed by Rowecord.