Welsh Water agrees to draw up estimates to repair or replace river bridge to rugby club
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A corroded river bridge once used by miners and rugby players in the Swansea Valley may yet be repaired or even replaced – but it depends on the cost.
Welsh Water, which owns the bridge in Clydach, closed it to pedestrians in 2019 for safety reasons following an independent inspection, although it still carries a sewer across the River Tawe.
The closure has affected match day attendance and revenue for Vardre rugby club, whose players and supporters face a detour to pitches the other side of the river from the clubhouse.
Former Wales internationals Robert Jones and Arwel Thomas, who are from nearby Trebanos, urged Welsh Water to reopen the footbridge in a video in support of the rugby club, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service this month.
Welsh Water representatives have met club officials to discuss a way forward, and agreed to draw up a repair estimate.
The utility will also get an estimate for a replacement bridge, and allow a structural engineer commissioned by the club to assess the structure.
Malcolm Thomas, Vardre RFC’s secretary, said: “It was a very purposeful meeting. I think we were pleased with the discussion and the outcome of it. Obviously there is still a long way to go.”
He said the cost of repairing the bridge may end up being prohibitive, but that the club would be happy if a new footbridge could be built close by.
“We are in their hands a bit,” he said.
After heavy rainfall the Tawe can rise up above the base of the bridge, depositing debris before receding.
But Mr Thomas said this happened infrequently, and that any solution would have to factor in flood risk assessments.
Welsh Water said it appreciated the concerns of the rugby club and the local community, and that it was worried to hear reports of young people climbing over the gates of the bridge despite “keep out” signs.
It reiterated that the structure, which local people said miners used to cross on their way back to Clydach from work, had been closed for safety reasons.
Referring to the recent meeting with Vardre RFC, a Welsh Water spokesman said: “We agreed actions we would undertake and while they are likely to take several months to complete, we’ll remain in contact with the club to keep them updated.”
A Welsh Water letter to a resident who has been campaigning for a solution said it had made many offers to improve another river bridge in Clydach which the rugby club and its supporters now use.
Vardre RFC’s Mr Thomas said he had not been involved in discussions on this particular point, but that the club needed to work with Welsh Water.
“We are now awaiting their feedback,” he said.
Vardre RFC has two men’s teams, a youth team and several mini-rugby sides.
The video in support of the club also featured Vardre RFC supporter Dave Feathers, who said he was representing the older people of Clydach.
“Some are very fit but there are others, like me, who unfortunately are now disabled, and we are being restricted watching the team that I have followed for most of my life,” he said.
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