A thousand people attended a special open day as Elland’s rebuilt 19th century bridge edges ever closer to completion.
Construction crews have been working seven days a week to finish the project in the aftermath of devastating flood damage on Boxing Day last year.
There was a mixture of excitement and relief on Saturday as locals witnessed the latest stage in the bridge’s resurrection: 25 different utilities including gas pipes, water pipes and telephone lines are being moved back from the temporary footbridge in a tricky and complicated process.
The team behind the rebuild is confident of re-opening the bridge before the end of the year.
“Local people liked having the opportunity to see the works for themselves,” said Stephen Hardy of the Canal & River Trust, which has been a partner in the £5.5 million restoration.
“This was a chance to see behind the scenes and get up close to the new bridge.
“It is a part of people’s daily lives; they are used to going across it. It’s been a difficult year for them with the bridge out of action.”
New arches were winched into place in September and since then a new concrete topping has been laid on which the road will sit.
Contractors will transfer the final few services in the coming weeks, marking the last milestone in the history of the new bridge.
The canal was reopened to boats back in July but is now closed again through winter as work is completed on Elland Bridge and nearby Crowther Bridge, which is also part of the wider project.
A new towpath is being constructed under Elland Bridge and will be tied in with the existing path on either side.
The Calder and Hebble Navigation at Elland will be reopened in January but will remain closed at Crowther until March until new foundations for the bridge are completed.
All of the stone being used to face the 2016 version of Elland Bridge has been recovered from the old one, which dates from 1811.
Crowther Bridge was more badly damaged and less usable stone was recovered, so it is being rebuilt with a mix of recovered stone and new stone, carefully matched and locally sourced.
The final piece in the construction jigsaw is artwork and poetry created by children in years five and six at Elland Church of England Primary School, which was on display during the open day. Their poetry will line the inside of the tunnel.
The devastating damage to Elland Bridge on Boxing Day 2015 resulted in divers carrying out safety checks on more than 100 bridges across Calderdale.
The collapse of the Grade II listed bridge caused traffic chaos for commuters travelling from Brighouse to Elland.