A COUNCILLOR has blasted the long-awaited opening of the town centre’s new bridge which promised to boost pedestrians’ safety - after Barnsley Football Club supporters raised issues on Oakwell matchdays.

Market Gate Bridge, which opened before Christmas, cost a total of £13m for the 61-metre-long structure and wider public realm works.

The former Jumble Lane level crossing was closed as part of Network Rail’s programme to reduce risks at level crossings.

It was ranked as the 27th most dangerous crossing out of more than 2,300 assessed at the time, mainly due to football fans - who used the route to Oakwell - jumping over the barriers.

However, ‘chaotic’ scenes on matchdays have seen scores of football fans having to cross multiple lanes of traffic - something which ‘needs to be rectified’, according to Coun Steve Hunt.

Fans used the bridge to cross the railway lines from the town centre to Oakwell on December 23, New Year’s Day, January 13 and on Tuesday evening.

Coun Hunt, who represents the Liberal Democrats and is the Barnsley branch’s spokesperson for transport, said he has secured a meeting with council bosses regarding road safety at the Schwabisch Gmund Road side of the bridge.

“I am receiving complaints about the lack of road safety features for pedestrians at the Oakwell end of the bridge with those who have used it having to contend with crossing multiple lanes of traffic,” he added.

“It has been reported that the final cost has increased from the original £9.7m budget to £13m - that’s an increase of a staggering 34 per cent.

“This is another large town centre project where costs have increased significantly from the original estimate.

“It again casts doubt on the council’s ability to manage large projects and get value for money for the taxpayer.

“These overspends in the town centre mean less money available to spend to improve our villages and principal towns.

“A new bridge was desperately needed but the grandiose design has always felt to me like a vanity project.

“A more functional bridge could have been delivered more quickly and given better value for money.

“Regarding football fans’ safety, it is an issue I raised at the last full council meeting.

“It was clear from the response of the cabinet member to my question that the road safety issues arising from the new bridge had not been considered.

“I am pleased to have arranged a meeting with officers and cabinet members later this month to discuss my concerns.

“I look forward to obtaining a positive outcome from that meeting for the users of the new bridge.”

Coun Robin Franklin, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, told the Chronicle: "The bridge is open on matchdays and a number of traffic management measures are in place to help make the area as safe as possible for pedestrians heading to and from Oakwell.

“We are also exploring some longer-term improvements to the layout of junctions and footways to further improve safety for pedestrians.

“We have always been committed to crowd safety and the bridge and the remaining elements around it will continue this."