It was a double celebration on Friday 8 September as the council reopened both Gaol Ferry Bridge and the Chocolate Path. The Mayor and Cabinet Member for Transport were there to reopen the bridge on time at 5pm.
Wapping Wharf held a party into the evening to mark the reopening of Gaol Ferry Bridge, which connects Coronation Road and Cumberland Road over the New Cut.
Hundreds attended the reopening and accompanying party, which included live music and food and drink offers.
Gaol Ferry Bridge has undergone a complete restoration over the past year that has seen structural steelwork, rotten timbers and the decking replaced, steel lattice work and some stonework repaired, and the whole bridge repainted. Some of the new decking had to be reordered after a proportion was stolen from the site compound, but it arrived and was installed in time for the reopening. However, there are some final works to take place in the coming weeks, including installing lights on the bridge and completing the pedestrian crossing on Cumberland Road between Gaol Ferry Steps and the bridge.
Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “It was brilliant to reopen the newly restored Gaol Ferry Bridge and to see so many people enjoying the celebrations at Wapping Wharf. It means thousands of people can once again use it to walk and cycle between south Bristol, Spike Island, and beyond. I’d like to thank everyone for bearing with us while we completed these essential repairs.
“There is an ongoing conversation to be had about the longer-term need for another bridge in the area. As we continue to tackle the backlog of repairs that we inherited, and as our city’s population continues to grow, we are looking ahead to future opportunities for a new crossing.”
Stuart Hatton, Managing Director of Umberslade, the developers of Wapping Wharf, said: “After a long time coming it felt wonderful to see the bridge reopen on Friday. It was incredible to see so many people coming out to show their support to our community of independent retailers here at Wapping Wharf and to celebrate at our reopening party. We’re thrilled to have the route through our community open again, and I know I speak for everyone here that we can’t wait to welcome everyone back and see Wapping Wharf thriving once more.”
On the same day, the council also reopened the Chocolate Path following extensive work to stabilise Cumberland Road and the river wall.
The distinctive paving that resembles chocolate bars has been re-laid and pedestrians and cyclists can once again enjoy this riverside path.
This is the final stage in a complex engineering project that included installing piling to hold the ground in place, rebuilding the failed section of the retaining wall, and reinstating a section of the Harbour Railway. It followed a landslip of an 80-metre section of the river wall in 2020.
Marvin Rees said: “To complete two major infrastructure projects on the same day is wonderful and it’s great to see people using the path again and enjoying the views across the harbour.
“We have lots more harbourside infrastructure projects to follow, not least repairing a further five bridges that cross the New Cut, starting with Vauxhall Bridge and Sparke Evans Park Bridge. It shows our commitment to tackling difficult projects to safeguard the future of Bristol’s vital connections.”
Find out more about the council’s five-year rolling programme of bridge repairs in a blog post on Bristol’s bridges.