AMBITIOUS plans to light up an iconic railway bridge will help attract more tourists and their vital spending power to a Northumberland town, it has been claimed.
The aim is to give Berwick’s 28-arch Royal Border Bridge, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1850, a night-time illumination scheme to help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of its designer, rail engineer Robert Stephenson.
Now county councillors are being recommended to formally support the “exciting” project by agreeing up to £10,000 in revenue funding.
The initiative could also include council funding for the restoration of failed lighting on the town’s 1928 New Bridge, which has been the subject of much local dissatisfaction and calls for action.
The Royal Border Bridge, carries the East Coast Main Line over the River Tweed from Berwick to Tweedmouth.
The permanent illumination scheme was drawn up by a Berwick History Society working group and a Glasgow-based firm of architects.
It involves using energy-efficient LED-based lights to illuminate the underside of the 28 arches, with the lights changing colour to follow trains crossing the structure at night.
A report to county councillors says revenue funding of £5,000 per annum for two years is required to ensure the project takes off.
Senior regeneration project officer Tim Kirton said the aim is to create an iconic welcome for visitors to Berwick, encourage longer stays in the town and boost spending to help support local, tourism-based businesses.
Mr Kirton said: “Tourists and visitors are the lifeblood of the local economy.
“This project would create an impressive and symbolic night-time feature in the town, which would act as a tourist and visitor attraction.
“It could be used as a tool for local tourism-based festivals, events and celebrations, and as a symbol of Northumberland County in the North.
“Community consultation strongly suggests that the illumination would be a popular and exciting project among the vast majority of the local community.
“It would also be a highly visual project and show that the new county council gets things done.”
Private sponsorship is being sought for the scheme in order to reduce the requirement for council taxpayers’ money to be used.
The working group hopes to have the bridge illuminated by March, in time for the 160th anniversary of its opening.
Capital funding has been pledged from The Railway Heritage Trust, which has agreed £60,000, and One North East through the Northumberland Strategic Partnership.