A TEN-YEAR campaign to reopen a closed bridge in Carlisle has taken a step forward.

The Waverley viaduct, which links the Cumberland Infirmary to Etterby and Stainton across the River Eden, was again mentioned at a meeting of Carlisle City councillors on February 4.

In the meeting, a motion was put forward by the deputy leader of the city council’s Labour group Les Tickner, which called on the Conservative leader of the council John Mallinson to fulfill his promise of taking the final step in the project to reopen the bridge.

The motion asked for £30,000 to be put aside for the creation of the public path creation order (PPCO), the legal document the Carlisle Waverley Viaduct Trust (CWVT) needs before it can go ahead with the project.

Mr Mallinson said his position had not changed on the viaduct and he had since offered a meeting with the trust which would see the council provide a letter of commitment, which formally detailed a responsibility to fund the PPCO.

It is hoped that the letter will enable the CWVT to acquire the remainder of the funding to build the bridge, which will be funded by the trust.

The Labour group agreed to drop the motion, believing that the mere fact of the promise being made in a public meeting would be enough to hold the council leadership to its word.

“We got a commitment he would set aside this money for the scheme,” explained Mr Tickner. “All the parties were busy with the election, campaigning every night. Now we’ve got Christmas out the way too I think the timing was right.

“I didn’t want people thinking it was gone. Now it is back in the public eye.

“I get a feeling that last year he (John Mallison) felt that he had to deliver on this, absolutely.”

The CWVT has £100,000 pledged from the Railway Heritage Trust for the scheme.

Earlier estimates put the cost of the project in the region of £325,000.

“I don’t think I gave a (new) undertaking,” said Mr Mallinson.

“I think I reiterated a previous undertaking.

“I said we would fund the cost of the PPCO. The council can’t afford to undertake the financial commitment on (to build the bridge).

“I understand the trust are trying to raise that funding. I would like to see it happen.”

Mr Mallinson said the council would not be able to fund the PPCO prior to the funding for the project being in place.

“If we create the order that will be down to us,” he said. “We would be obliged to build the footpath.

“If the funding is in place we will make the order.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for the ward, Trevor Allison has also been working behind the scenes to make the project a reality.

He said he had been working with Cumbria County Council to work out why two estimates about the cost of the bridge were so far apart.

“I am going to find out from the county council where these costs have come from. It sounds enormous,” he said. “It has been going on for a long time now. The higher of the two costs puts it out of reach.”

The CWVT is now in contact with Mr Mallinson, with the leader promising to start the process of producing the letter of commitment requested by the trust.

Its mission is to reopen the bridge, first as a footway, but later as a cycleway.

On September 10, a full council meeting saw councillors on all sides commit to working together to reopen the viaduct.

The executive committee meeting six days later decided, among other things, that the trust sign a legal agreement to carry out and fund the works prior to the issue of the order.

This was described as an insurmountable obstacle at the time by the trust, but it is hoping the letter of commitment may make it more achievable.

The CWVT said: “What has recently been holding up progress of the viaduct project is the lack of a promised letter from the council which CWVT can show to prospective funding bodies.

“When this longstanding problem was drawn to Mr Mallinson’s attention he offered a meeting to the trust. This is to take place next week after which the trustees will review the situation.”