Are you going to Scarborough Bridge …

Scarborough Bridge, York

… If you are planning to go to Scarborough Bridge, or rather, across it, best check first that it’s actually open. Major refurbishment work is taking place here over the coming months. An exhibition today at Marygate car park provided further details. It included some very impressive lego.

Scarborough Bridge, York

It’s York’s least attractive river crossing, but it’s a vital link for pedestrians as well as for the York-Scarborough railway line. People on trains crossing here probably won’t have noticed what pedestrians can clearly see, that it’s quite dilapidated, with rusty bits and crumbling bits.

It’s not that long since it underwent some kind of restoration. In 2009 it was closed for a time. Whatever was done clearly wasn’t enough, and it’s now about to undergo a major overhaul. Part of this work, early next year, will involve a crane lifting new sections into place, from nearby Marygate car park.

Trees near Scarborough Bridge

Between the rail line as it leaves the bridge and Marygate car park alongside there’s an area of greenery, trees and shrubs, behind a fence. A large area of it, here at the riverside end, has been removed since I took this photo a month ago. I knew this was going to happen but it still looked rather desolate and brutal when I looked this evening, the fenced-off area full of tree stumps where healthy trees have been removed.

Trees near Scarborough Bridge

Still, it’s necessary, as clearly it’s more important that a bridge carrying a railway line and pedestrians over a river is safe, and if making it safe involves removing trees in order to get to it then we have to accept that. And there are still plenty at the other end of this stretch alongside the car park/rail line.

At the exhibition I had an interesting conversation about the plans to replant trees and shrubs after the work is completed. I wondered how this would fit with the other major aspect many of us wonder about, improved pedestrian/cycle access.

The walkway on the bridge alongside the railway line is narrow and accessed by steps. Which means cyclists have to carry their bikes up the steps, or wheel them up the flat bit alongside the steps. A more accessible crossing has often been mentioned, sloped at either side rather like the Millennium Bridge at the other end of town.

Many people have wondered … if work on Scarborough Bridge is taking place, could we perhaps have this sloped pedestrian/wheelchair accessible/cycle accessible part put in at the same time?

Well no, because that’s the city council’s domain. This work is Network Rail’s responsibility, but the pedestrian access part is up to the council to sort. So we’ll be waiting a while for that.

I was a bit concerned about all those newly planted replacement trees getting their roots down then having to be removed again if/when the improved sloped access is constructed. Apparently the planting is designed to fit around that future possibility. So that’s good.

Meanwhile, there are some very informative posters on the edge of the site.



#ScarboroughBridge will perhaps be quite a talking point in the coming months, and certainly in February I expect there will be quite a crowd gathered to watch the new sections being lifted into place. Rail enthusiasts and crane enthusiasts and nosy locals like me.

I wonder what will become of the ‘love locks’, as the bridge has acquired a small collection of these in recent months.

Love locks on Scarborough Bridge, Aug 2014

Love locks on Scarborough Bridge, Aug 2014

Probably because it’s such a romantic location. Or something. Or perhaps just because it’s the only bridge with suitable mesh, after the ones on Millennium Bridge were removed.

I wonder how Network Rail are going to deal with the removal of these tokens of eternal devotion.

Just by the bridge, as you head out of town towards the Leeman Road area, I noticed an earlier and more traditional memento of love: initials carved into the tree trunk.

Perhaps a safer bet if you want a lasting memento and record of your devotion. Or, as more and more city centre trees are being removed, perhaps not.

Initials carved on tree trunk


The other point, of course, about improvements for pedestrians and cyclists via sloped access points to the sides of the current structure is that this would mean accessing the bridge from a higher level than the current riverside walkway, which would mean the bridge could still be accessed when there’s flooding. A page from autumn 2012 includes photos of the river level here at Scarborough Bridge, to remind us why that might be a good idea.

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  1. Thanks for the article Lisa. :)

    As you say, it’s a real shame that the Council aren’t making use of this opportunity to upgrade the pedestrian and cycle access. It can get incredibly busy during peaks periods of between 8-9am and 5-6pm and if you’re pushing your bike up and down the stairs it holds everyone up and you can feel the frustration of folks who are in a rush wanting to get on.


  2. Well used indeed – I sometimes choose slightly longer commute through hospital grounds and a freewheel down Marygate before dodging geese and ne’er do wells from Aviva en route to Skeldergate.

    Met interesting chap down there other day (haven’t we all) who gave me several pieces info. Seemed to know what talking about but may be worth researching before quoting :)

    a) Bridge designed by someone quite clever
    b) Original mirrored one in Bristol i think he said which fell down!
    c) This led to some buttresses being installed – pointed them out i had never noticed before – some black (iron?) “sockets” about half way up
    d) Later patched up properly – which may be where clever chap comes into it
    d) Original pedestrian route was in centre of tracks, possibly raised? That sounds very entertaining in days of steam.

    • I’ve heard some of this, certainly about the alterations regarding the pedestrian part and the remaining parts of the earlier structure still visible on the stonework. Other than that there doesn’t seem to be much information available, but a photo of the bridge with accompanying info in the city archives images collection may be of interest: Scarborough Bridge, photo and notes

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