As part of the Llanthony site we own the former Great Western Railway (GWR) footbridge spanning the River Severn. It acts as the crucial pedestrian access to the cottages. We have always been aware of the poor condition of parts of the structure and the Llanthony team have spent much time looking at ways to refurbish it – there was no easy solution, but we factored our liability into the price of the site when negotiating the overall purchase.
The bridge actually has a much longer history than may be appreciated as it came to the site second hand from the GWR and would have originally been a much wider structure capable of taking much more than just foot traffic. It is this considerable ‘over engineering’ for its current use that has enabled it to survive so long without major works.
During 2012 the H&G CT Legal & Project Development Team (L&PDT) had several approaches from, and discussions with, the Government Pipeline Agency who are responsible for the Government Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS). A crucial pipeline, forming part of the GPSS system, is carried by the footbridge over the River Severn.
As issues of liability were raised by our legal team at The Wharf House all went quiet, until a few weeks before the Agency desperately wished to undertake work to ensure that our footbridge was able to continue to support the pipeline.
Over the course of a couple of weeks in late 2012, designs were produced, refined and approved by our L&PDT for the bridge to be enhanced in order for it to continue to carry the pipe safely; obviously we wished to also ensure that the bridge continued to serve our purpose for access. In literally last minute negotiations (whilst the contractor’s team stood waiting on site to be authorised to commence work!) legal liability for maintaining the structure – to the same functional and ‘fit for purpose’ state you see it in today (both to support the pipeline over the River and for pedestrian access to our site) was transferred from the Canal Trust to the Government Pipeline Agency.
This legal transfer of responsibility for the bridge was at no cost whatsoever to the H&G CT. By ensuring that we have no future maintenance costs for this bridge a considerable ongoing liability has been removed from the H&G Canal Trust whilst all our rights of use remain.