Boleside Road footbridge, which dates back to the early 20th century and carries a footpath across the former Selkirk branch near Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, has recently been closed due to concerns over its structural integrity.
Now Scottish Borders Council has appealed to the Historical Railways Estate (HRE) for assistance. HRE engineers have already carried out an examination to determine the bridge’s condition, paving the way for a plan to be developed. The next step will see a designer and contractor appointed to put together a repair scheme that will allow for public use once again.
The Edinburgh and Hawick Railway was opened in 1849 by the North British Railway and formed the first part of the line from Edinburgh to Carlisle. The railway through Galashiels was initially known as the Border union, but, in 1862, it was renamed as the Waverley line, to emphasise the connection with the celebrated novelist Sir Walter Scott, as nearby Abbotsford increased in popularity as a literary shrine.
In 1856, the branch line to Selkirk opened, although this footbridge doesn’t show up on the map until 1930. It’s possible that a later footbridge was required at this location to improve access from the developing areas of housing to the east end of Abbotsford Road with the river for recreational purposes.
Due to the development of transport by road, the Selkirk line was closed to passenger transport in 1951 and to goods in 1964, at which point the footbridge became redundant. However, up until its recent closure, the public continued to make use of the structure as it spans the remaining embankments and links a late 20th century housing estate to the north west directly to those much-needed walks by the water.
The Historical Railways Estate is part of Highways England. It maintains more than 3,000 structures across the UK for the Department for Transport. However, Boleside Road footbridge wasn’t one of them, and was brought to HRE’s attention in January, when the local authority asked for assistance.
Highways England civil engineer Colin McNicol commented: “This cherished footbridge has a rich history and we are determined to extend its life for many years to come.
“Until its recent closure the structure gave the public a chance to enjoy popular riverside walks, which took on new significance for people exercising during the Covid-19 pandemic.”