It may have been hours later than expected - but Monday finally saw lift off for Faversham’s Creek bridge.
Motorists have been left feeling frustrated, however, as the road closure has been extended by Kent County Council until Friday, December 20 as the bridge was not reinstalled yesterday as planned.
Campaigners have hailed the lift as an “important step” in their five-year fight for a new one to be built.
A replacement is still an option - but KCC decided to lift the crossing for an inspection to see whether restoring the existing structure is viable.
With the bridge due to be removed at 11am on Monday, eager campaigners wrapped up warm and braved the cold in the hope of seeing the lift.
But as the hours ticked by and the sun began to set, even the most hardy among them decided to go home.
It wasn’t until after 8pm the crossing was finally hauled into the air, with a few determined onlookers still watching.
KCC has revealed that the lengthy delay was down to the bridge being heavier than expected, meaning another crane was required.
A spokesman for the authority said: “The delay was due to additional weight within the bridge.
“This related to the counter balance of the bridge; eight tonnes of pig iron was identified under the bridge deck.
“Therefore, due to the position of the crane, this additional weight could not be lifted without the aid of another crane.
“The full inspections have been taking place over the last couple of days.
“And now reports and designs will start to be produced in order for KCC to make a full assessment, which is anticipated to be completed by mid 2020, and then a further 12-month procurement process.
“At this stage we not in a position to confirm dates of the bridge being fully operational.”
The first bridge over the water was built back in 1798.
“We are keen for the public who have shown their enthusiasm for the opening bridge to finally get what they paid for..." - Where's Our Bridge campaigners Marion Barton and Rosie Eagleson
In 1843, as part of a major improvement programme of the Creek, it was replaced with an iron crossing for pedestrians.
By 1878, having the crossing solely for foot access to the town was not ample, and so the current hydraulically-operated vehicular swing bridge was installed.
Since it was built, it has had numerous repairs, but for a number of years it has failed to function as a swing bridge.
It has been the aim of the townspeople to restore the Creek’s basin to its former glory by restoring the opening function of the bridge, allowing boats to moor.
Where’s Our Bridge campaigners Marion Barton and Rosie Eagleson told Faversham News they are “delighted” with the progress made.
They said: “We know it is only the beginning but we hope it makes clear KCC’s intention that the opening bridge is on the way.
“This removal of the bridge is exploratory to see whether the existing bridge can be viably restored or whether it needs replacing.
“A well thought through schedule of work will ensure that the decision will be quickly but carefully made and the next move made.
“We do believe that lots of people are now working together to make it happen in 2021.
“We are keen for the public who have shown their enthusiasm for the opening bridge to finally get what they paid for.”
Bridge Road was due to reopen today, but it will now remain shut between Conduit Street and Brent Road until Friday, December 20, to allow for extra works.
The one-way order on Brent Hill is suspended to allow for two-way traffic.
Drivers travelling northbound are directed to go via North Lane, South Road, Napleton Road, West Street, Davington Hill, Brent Hill, and Brent Road.
Southbound traffic can go by Brent Road, Brent Hill, Davington Hill, West Street and North Lane. Pedestrians are advised to take the alternate route via Brent Road, Flood Lane, West Street and North Lane.
A spokesman for KCC added: "There were some late developments following a detailed inspection.
"So the plan to reinstall the bridge was put on hold until further investigations and calculations are completed.
"Further information to follow over the next few days."
The bridge is now due to be replaced tomorrow.