THE battle to save the lives of Pendle schoolchildren crossing a narrow rail bridge has been raised with Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who is determined to try to get a short-term solution sorted out.
The bridge leading to two schools near the Colne/Nelson boundary is so narrow that children can be a risk from passing cars. It leads from Gibfield Road, Colne, to Fisher-More Catholic Humanities College and Pendle View Primary School, and does not contain a footpath.
Fisher-More governor Mr Joe Winkley raised the issue with Mr Stephenson when he visited the school. He said: “It’s a bridge too far - from County Hall!”
He pointed out the dangers to pupils. He said: “In bloody-mindedness, parents want to get through even when people are crossing it.”
He would like to see the bridge rebuilt wider, or a footbridge added alongside it. The key problems happen when the school opens and closes. He explained: “It all happens at once and it’s an accident waiting to happen.
“I don’t really know what can be done. The school was opened in 1960 and at that time there were only two people came by car! Most of the staff came by public transport.”
He fears that, as well as a danger to pupils crossing on foot, there is a possibility cars could hit head-on as they cross the bridge. And he added: “Pupils and staff have to put up with it every day. It’s unadopted, and the highways authority don’t want to adopt it. It’s a merry-go-round. It’s an agenda item at every full governors’ meeting.”
Headteacher Mr Chris Bohills said: “It is a single track bridge and it’s a vehicular access for two schools - Fisher-More and Pendle View. It is not a problem during the day, but it is when pupils are coming in to school and going out at the end of the day. There are 750 pupils who need to cross the bridge.”
He pointed out there was no control over traffic on the bridge and the issue had been raised with owners Network Rail, Pendle Council and Lancashire County Council, and nothing had happened.
The issue had been taken up by Coun. George Askew, who raised it with the MP. Mr Bohills said: “The ideal would be a footbridge. An alternative would be signage to prevent vehicles going across the bridge at certain times when the pupils are crossing.
“We need somebody to act before someone has an accident. It is ridiculous. Unless we keep going on, nothing will ever happen.”
On Monday, Mr Stephenson joined Mr Bohills and governors on the bridge as children left. He pointed out that the possibility of a new bridge had been considered as part of the Building Schools for the Future plans for Fisher-More. “But that has now been put on hold,” he said. “So I want to see a short-term solution to the bridge to improve safety.”
He feels short-term alternatives could be traffic lights, or signs controlling traffic flow. He added: “We need a traffic engineer to look at it and decide the safest way.”
The bridge is owned by the railway, the approach from Gibfield Road is run by Lancashire County Council but the area between the two schools is, as Mr Stephenson put it, “no man’s land”. He feels that tends to make Lancashire County Council put off work but he is now raising it with them.
He added that looking at the situation with the head and governors identified the problem. “It’s a busy bridge and it’s clear it needs a long-term solution. But in short term we need to see something done so no one gets knocked down and there are no car accidents.
“I am going to take it up with Lancashire County Council. I have seen them before but nothing has been done. Because of the national picture, it is not sure there is going to be a substantial redevelopment of Fisher-More.
“You can understand why the county council is fudging the issue, but a short-term solution is an important step as it is unlikely we will see the bridge rebuilt soon.
“Adding a footbridge alongside would help, but that is significant financially.”