There are calls for a detailed study into the historical significance of a pedestrian bridge at Woodford in a last ditch attempt to prevent the bridge’s removal.
Sydney Trains has said the bridge will be taken down due to its unsafe condition.
According to information released under a GIPA (information request) the bridge was removed from Railcorp's heritage register in 2009, despite being one of only three bridges of similar construction and it’s physical condition listed as ‘good’. But the report also says the bridge does not demonstrate any technical or historical value.
“The feeling from the community is that the footbridge should never have been de-listed in 2009/10,” said Elizabeth Burgess, a Woodford resident and deputy chair of the Woodford Academy Management Committee.
Ms Burgess says a detailed study would have revealed the historical significance of the bridge, and has called for Sydney Trains to conduct a full Review of Environmental Factors which would include community consultation.
“Given the strong community support for the retention of the footbridge, the community would like to see a full assessment of the impacts of the proposed removal of the footbridge that demonstrates that that all options have been considered of the impacts both on the heritage items Memorial Park Group and Wilson Glen and to pedestrian amenity,” Ms Burgess said.
“Removing a footbridge that has been in this location for almost 100 years is akin to severing one of the arteries that provides the critical pedestrian connections for our historic village.”
The footbridge is used to access the village, train station, and cafe, and forms part of the loop walk from the village centre, to Wilson's Glen via Memorial Park and the footbridge and back to the village via the railway station underpass and highway footbridge.
“As such, the footbridge contributes to the local economy by supporting a range of other notable local visitor experiences that include the State Heritage listed National Trust museum, the Woodford Academy, the world reknown NPWS cycle trail, The Oaks Trail and the Transit of Venus walk amongst others,” Ms Burgess said.
At last week's Blue Mountains City Council meeting, Ward 2 councillor Romola Hollywood urged councillors to express support for the retention of the footbridge.
“The bridge should be repaired and properly maintained by replacing the hand rails and safety fencing. It is appalling that Sydney Trains has neglected maintaining the bridge and is now calling for its demolition,” Cr Hollywood said.
“I am confident that a comprehensive assessment of the impact on the local heritage of the removal of the footbridge would reveal that the bridge needs to repaired and maintained.
“The council should be given an opportunity to comment on behalf of the community about the importance of the bridge to the fabric, heritage and local history of the Woodford area.”
She said the bridge has also been proposed for inclusion in the Woodford Memorial Park local heritage item as a part of the council’s heritage review.
The council will write to Sydney Trains, Transport Minister Andrew Constance, and Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle expressing council’s support for the retention of Woodford Railway Footbridge.
The current bridge dates back to 1958 but there are photos showing a bridge on the site in 1919.
A Sydney Trains spokesman said the bridge was removed from Railcorp’s heritage register because it did not meet NSW Heritage Council criteria.
“In 2017 an independent review of the bridge found significant investment would be required to retain it. Any upgrade would require it to be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act and current safety standards, meaning replacing the bridge,” he said.
“Given we have provided alternative access with the pedestrian underpass at nearby Woodford Station, a recommendation has been made to remove the bridge.”