A MAJOR commuting belt which was closed in January to allow an aging railway bridge to be replaced has reopened - much to residents’ delight.

Network Rail and its multiple contractors’ six-month project on Hough Lane’s bridge in Wombwell ended this week and saw the road reopen yesterday.

The route - which connects Wombwell and Hoyland - was closed to motorists to allow engineers to safely demolish the old bridge, which was built in 1895, and replace it with a stronger, wider one with more spacious pavements and a cycle path, making the bridge easier to use.

The upgraded bridge also allows trains to pass through Wombwell station at faster speeds, resulting in more reliable journeys for passengers.

A Network Rail spokesman told the Chronicle they worked closely with Northern - the train operator - and Barnsley Council throughout the project to minimise disruption for passengers and residents of Wombwell.

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Matt Rice, route director for Network Rail, said: “We’d like to thank residents of Wombwell for their patience and support while we carried out this essential project to upgrade Hough Lane’s bridge.

“Bridges on our network, many of which were built during the Victorian era, can reach the point where major works are needed.

“It’s known as the end of their ‘design life’, meaning that they have to be replaced to continue to provide a safe and reliable railway for passengers.

“The new and improved bridge will benefit people in the area for future generations, and we were pleased to receive positive feedback about the project from the community.

“The upgrade will also allow trains to travel at faster speeds on the line, which will result in more reliable journeys.

“A signposted diversionary route - via Wood Walk, Dearne Valley Parkway, Wath Road, Valley Way, Mayflower Way, Park Street and Church Street - has been in place for motorists, and pedestrian access was successfully maintained via a temporary footbridge for the majority of the work.”

Train services on the Sheffield to Leeds line were largely unaffected, apart from when the bridge was physically removed over a weekend period about two months ago.

Residents have praised workers this week, despite nearby businesses complaining about reduced trade when the road closure first came into effect in the winter.

One Wood Walk resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “As with anything that puts a bit of time on people’s journeys, neighbours did moan a little bit at first but the diversion wasn’t as bad, or as busy, as we all envisaged.

“The workers on the bridge were always friendly and even apologetic at times - we knew the work was happening months before it did start and there was clearly a reason for it.

“The bridge has been in place for more than a hundred years I believe and this work, although noisy by its nature, will allow the route to be used for generations to come.

“It was handy the latter stages of the process happened when there was a reduced amount of traffic on the roads due to the lockdown.”

There will be temporary traffic lights in place later this month to allow Wombwell station’s car park’s wall to be rebuilt safely, Network Rail confirmed.

A spokesman added: “Scaffolding will remain on one side of the bridge while the final stage of work takes place to move cables in July.

“Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians will not be affected by this part of the project.”