A historic bridge is to be demolished, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway has decided, after years of spending time and money maintaining it.

Bridge 12 is situated 0.4 miles west of Havenstreet station and was constructed in circa 1875 by contractors building the Ryde and Newport railway.

The bridge was built as an accommodation crossing to allow the landowner the cross the line. The land either side of the railway is now in separate ownership and the railway has no obligation to maintain a link.

Until the extension to Smallbrook, Bridge 12 was the only bridge crossing the line. It therefore has historical significance both to the line and the steam railway.

Isle of Wight County Press: Bridge 12 at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

Isle of Wight County Press: Work needed at Bridge 12 at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

Significant sections of the railway are constructed on clay subsoil which is subject to ground movement during extremely dry or wet weather conditions. 

Bridge 12 sits on this clay and has suffered as a result of ground movement for many years.

Over the last 35 years, the structure has required considerable time and money spent on it, and in 1990 the Wootton section had to be closed to traffic to enable urgent repairs.

Peter Taylor, IW Steam Railway chairman, said: "Over the last two years, the board has carefully considered all options and sought professional advice.

"It was clear none of the proposed repairs would act a permanent solution, and the bridge would continue to require significant ongoing investment.”

“The history and heritage aspects of Bridge 12 were very much in directors' minds when evaluating the way forward.

"As one of the line’s original structures, there was naturally a hope that this aspect of the line’s heritage could be preserved.

"Nevertheless we recognise that the bridge is in poor condition and has been subject to many repairs over the years which have reduced how much of the bridge is original and altered its appearance.

"As trustees we felt that there were better uses of the charity’s funds, and that dismantling the bridge was ultimately in the best long-term interests of the railway.

 “Taking the decision to dismantle part of the line’s infrastructure was not taken lightly. As directors and trustees of the railway we needed to carefully weigh up the heritage, financial and safety implications.

"We’re fortunate the rest of the line’s bridges are in good condition, however Bridge 12 has long been problematic and deteriorated to the point where we can’t ignore its condition.

"In the first instance we will ensure that Bridge 12 is properly recorded by photographing and laser-scanning the structure, to act as a permanent record.”

The decision does not preclude a future reconstruction of the bridge.