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Scarborough Rail Bridge

Scarborough Rail Bridge was built by the York and North Midland Railway Company in 1845. It carries the York - Malton - Scarborough line across the River Ouse.

The stone abutments and central pier we see today date from 1845, but the bridge decks are 21st century structures. The latter consist of a pair of double-span 'beam' bridges. One of these bridges carries the railway, the other (nearest the city-centre) carries a combined footpath and cycleway. The rail bridge and footbridge are both supported by the abutments and central pier of the original rail bridge. However, the footbridge has a cantilevered design that allows it to project sideways beyond the abutments and central pier, thereby significantly increasing the useable width of this popular river crossing.

Image A1 is an artist's impression of the bridge as it might have looked between 1845 and 1875. If this illustration is reasonably accurate, the cast iron shoes (sockets) on the abutments and central pier visible in Images A4 and B1 must have been added at some point between these dates. They probably supported diagonal braces to retrospectively strengthen the original bridge deck so that it could support the larger locomotives and heavier rolling stock that were introduced during this period. The original bridge carried a pair of railway tracks separated by a central walkway. The walkway could be accessed from the river banks via a staircase built into each abutment.

The original (1845) bridge deck was replaced in 1875 to facilitate the construction of the new railway station (see York Railway Station). In order to create workable gradients into / out of the new station, the railway tracks across Scarborough Rail Bridge needed to be raised by four feet. The replacement bridge used four wrought iron girders to support the railway tracks and to raise their height by the required amount. As part of this work, a separate dual-span lattice-girder footbridge was installed alongside the rail bridge to replace the dangerous central walkway. The spans for the 1875 rail bridge and 1875 footbridge were all supported on the original (1845) abutments and central pier. Images A2 to A6 show the structure in this form.

In 2015, the railway spans were replaced again as the girders and bridge deck were deemed to be 'life-expired'. The spans are now formed by four steel tapered girders. As pigeon droppings contributed to the deterioration of the old girders, mesh grills were fitted between the new girders to keep the pigeons out (see Image B1). To retain the bridge's general appearance on the upstream side, a new ornamental lattice girder was installed alongside the main load-bearing girders. (One of the ornamental lattice girders is partially visible in Image B1.) As part of the 2015 project, the 1875 lattice girder footbridge was spruced-up and tied-in to the new rail deck (to provide additional stability). Also, to prevent water ingress into the abutments (and thereby reduce the risk of water- and ice-related structural damage), the original staircase voids were filled with a lightweight expanding resin called 'Benefil'.

In July 2017, York City Council began a public consultation exercise as part of a proposed project to replace the old footbridge with a new 'shared use' version. The stated objectives included

  • increasing the width of the footbridge from 1.3 metres to 3.6 metres (to accommodate both pedestrians and bicycles);
  • incorporating ramps at either end;
  • linking the new footpath and cycle route with the northern access to the railway station; and
  • making the bridge fully 'accessible' at all times, including during the regularly occurring 'flood' events when the riverside paths may be inaccessible.

The proposal was broadly welcomed and the new footbridge opened in Spring 2019 (see Images B2 & B3). This new footbridge has dramatically altered the city-facing appearance of the bridge and it provides excellent views along the river towards the city-centre. It has also created a significantly improved traffic-free walking route between the railway station and the city centre via the Esplanade and / or Museum Gardens.

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Scarborough Rail Bridge (York)

Latitude: 53.961209000000
Longitude: -1.092820000000

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The combined footbridge and cycleway along the southeast side of Scarborough Rail Bridge (see Image B3) facilitates a short circular walk along the banks of the River Ouse via the West Esplanade (near York Railway Station), Lendal Bridge and the Esplanade / Dame Judi Dench Walk (which runs alongside Museum Gardens). However, please note that the Esplanade and West Esplanade both lie within the functional flood plain of the River Ouse. This means that the riverside paths may be inaccessible when the river is in flood and for the duration of post-flood clean-up works.