There were going to be three Millennium bridges within the administrative boundaries of the City of Carlisle. However, an early idea of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the river Eden was quashed by an unsympathetic City Council, so now there are only two.
The Irish Gate bridge was constructed as a pedestrian bridge linking the Castle with the City Centre over the busy Castle Way which serves as the northern relief road for the City. It is a true Millennium Bridge, with funding from the Millennium Commission and was opened on 9 October, 2000. The name Irish Gate refers to the fact that it was constructed near the site of an old medieval city gateway of the same name. Architects for the £650,000 project were the Newcastle-based Jane Derbyshire and David Kendall partnership. Kier Group was the main contractor and Arup were consultant engineers.
Because of the restricted pace on the south side of the bridge, there was no room to put in ramped access up to bridge level, and lifts were put in at both ends for disabled access. However, the lifts were not working at the time of my visit, and as far as I can discern, they have not been working for a long time, if ever, a disgraceful state of affairs, forcing disabled users onto a long and hazardous diversion.
I have a personal interest in the bridge which spans the river Lyne between Westlinton and Sandysike, about 9 km north of the City. In 1993, on only my second project working for Sustrans, I visited Cumbria and Northumberland preparing a report on cycle routes between Carlisle and Kielder Forest, a sort of precursor to the Reivers Cycle Route (National Cycle Network Regional Route 10).
It rapidly became apparent to me that cyclists riding north out of Carlisle face a serious problem with traffic, as their way northwards is blocked by the River Esk or its tributary the River Lyne. Crossing the mouth of the Esk at Metal Bridge on the A74 is my abiding worst cycling nightmare, whilst the bridge carrying the A7 over the River Lyne at Westlinton is not exactly pleasant either. But what I did discover is that the piers which supported the old "Waverley" railway line from Carlisle to Edinburgh were still in place and in good condition.
I was therefore delighted to learn that my idea of constructing a light structure supported by the existing piers eventually bore fruit. In September 2000, a new bridge was put in place, together with 1700 m of new path along the line of the old railway, thereby providing a safe, if circuitous link for cyclists between Carlisle and Longtown
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