Posted: Tue 6th Dec 2022

Welsh Government refuses to release inspection reports which led to Menai Bridge closure

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Dec 6th, 2022

The Welsh Government has refused a request for inspection reports relating to the condition of the Menai Bridge to be made public. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

The suspension bridge spanning the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland of Wales was suddenly closed in October with little warning. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

It followed an inspection which raised concerns about the integrity of the bridge’s metal hangers. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

A Freedom of Information request was previously made to the government in Cardiff Bay in a bid to obtain copies of inspection reports covering the last six years to be released. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

However, officials have now rejected the request citing commercial confidentiality arrangements with UK Highways A55 Ltd which is responsible for maintaining the bridge. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

In its response, the government said: “The Welsh Government acknowledges there is public interest in openness and transparency, particularly in terms of the information we hold on the lead up to the decision to close Menai Suspension Bridge. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“It is also recognised that there is benefit in the public understanding the considerations being undertaken by the Welsh Government. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Given that the Menai Suspension Bridge is located on the A5 and this section of the major road is operated and maintained by a third party through a contract, disclosing the information that was originally provided to the Welsh Government in confidence will likely cause significant breach of our contract. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We also do not have consent to make this information available to any party who asks for it. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“It is the view of the Welsh Government that whilst the information we hold regarding the decision to close Menai Suspension Bridge remains confidential, then the balance of public interest is likely to favour withholding the information. This balance may change over time.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters visited the bridge last week to announce a package of support measures for local businesses impacted by the closure, including free parking arrangements. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said he hoped to reassure the public that some of the world’s leading bridge specialists were “extremely busy” working behind the scenes to solve the problem. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Designed by Thomas Telford, the construction of the bridge started in 1818 and was completed in 1826. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

The majority of the bridge’s hangers date from when it was originally built, although some were replaced during work carried out about 40 years ago. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Mr Waters said: “We are dealing with a structure that is almost 200 years old, and that has created some unprecedented challenges. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“I know local people are really fed up of the situation, I get that, it is really frustrating, it has been a real pain. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“If people don’t see anything happening on the bridge, they assume nothing is being done. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“I want to reassure people, there is a huge amount of work going on in the background with the contractors UK Highways A55, Welsh Government engineers. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We have some of the world’s top industry experts and bridge specialists all working together.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said that workmen will be visible carrying out some of the repairs to the historic bridge this week. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said: “We aim to get it opened to 7.5 tonne traffic by January, but we can’t say when it will fully open after that. We just don’t know yet how the work will go. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We very much hope the latest package of support measures we have put together will go some way to ease some of the problems people have faced.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Free parking has been made available at car parks in the town of Menai Bridge and at two park and share sites throughout December and January. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

It is hoped it will help local businesses dependent on Christmas trade and reduce the numbers of vehicles on the only other crossing – the A55 Britannia Bridge. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​



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