Sign sabotage mystery

Councillor Gary Wilkes is angry as road signs, detailing weight limit to a bridge, have been turned round
Councillor Gary Wilkes is angry as road signs, detailing weight limit to a bridge, have been turned round

WIGAN motorists are being put at risk because of illegal tampering at a weak road bridge.

Weight danger-limit warning signs protecting the structure in north Ashton are being deliberately – and repeatedly – turned around so that drivers can’t see them.

Police are now investigating why the two roundels banning drivers of vehicles over seven and a half tonnes are being abused and who the culprits are.

The limit has been put on the bridge after a survey and is designed to prevent heavy traffic causing its eventual collapse. But the Bryn councillor who discovered the sabotage now believes it isn’t vandalism or teenage high jinks.

Opposition leader Coun Gary Wilkes thinks it is the handiwork of a trucker or private bus operator determined to use Winstanley Road as a short cut despite operating Heavy Goods Vehicles or Passenger Service Vehicles above the legal limit for the bridge.

He found the signs reversed on a cycle ride and, perching precariously on the saddle, used his bike’s adjustable spanner to loosen off the clamps and then bring them around to face in the right direction, before tightening the signs up again. But within a matter of days the signs at each end of the bridge had again been turned around so the warning was no longer visible to drivers.

Coun Wilkes said: “This place is a weak bridge over quite a fast flowing brook and the weight limit is there for a reason. There are streams of buses going over to Winstanley College as well as many heavy lorries. Somebody has turned the signs around so that they can’t be seen and presumably, they can’t be prosecuted if they are driving a vehicle that is too big for the bridge, because they can argue that there are no signs showing to be seen.

“At first I thought that, even though this is a remote place in the countryside, it must be someone having a laugh after one too many, even though it is in no way funny. But when I went over the bridge the other day and found them turned away from the traffic again I knew that this is a quite deliberate.

“It could have really serious consequences for drivers if the bridge, shaken to pieces by heavy lorries, later collapses underneath them.”

A St Helens Council spokeswoman said the matter had been reported to the police, that the damaged sign would probably be moved to a more eye-catching position and that there plans afoot in any case to reinforce the bridge so the weight limit would no longer be needed.