With the sun shining and a flood of applause, a major £4 million project was officially completed and opened.

After years of hard work and preparation, the Great North Rail Project to replace Siddick Bridge is finally complete.

The project – which began in November 2020 – was carried out by Carlisle-based Story Contracting, with funding from Cumbria County Council, Network Rail and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (CLEP), and will restore traffic in both directions of the bridge.

The momentous occasion was marked with a special road opening yesterday (June 7), with Cumbria County Council chairman, Councillor Tony Markley, cutting the ribbon to declare one side of the bridge – and a new safe footbridge for pedestrians – officially open.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The opportunities this bridge will provide for the port and community, in terms of jobs, future development, and even encouraging businesses to relocate here is fantastic, and I’m so pleased to see the work completed.

“It’s taken a lot of years to get this project going and finished, and working together so well with Story, CLEP and Network Rail has been key in seeing it through.”

He added: “It’s amazing that we have all been able to come together, and achieve something this fantastic for the community.”

The bridge provides key access for thousands of vehicles transporting 500,000 tonnes of cargo to and from the Port of Workington each year.

And while the original structure had a weight restriction due to its fragile state, the newly-installed bridge allows all traffic to flow freely, which Cumbria County Councillor Keith Little, cabinet member for highways and transport, is extremely pleased about.

He said: “This project has been a long time coming, and now that it’s been delivered, it will be a huge asset to the Port of Workington.”

“With the unlimited weight of vehicles coming into the port, and the excellent connectivity now between rail, sea and road, it’s created great potential for the port going forward.”

He continued: “It’s turned out to be absolutely fantastic, and with the addition of the footbridge, it will benefit everyone in the community.

“It’s been a real partnership between everyone involved, and we are very grateful for all of the support with the project.”

The project was first discussed back in 2014, and after so many years of hoping to get plans into action, Network Rail spokesperson, Roisin Nelson, is thrilled to finally see the finished product.

“This project has been the bane of my life for three-and-a-half years!” she said.

“I’ve had a real love-hate relationship with it, but to see such a great end result has made it completely worth it.

“It’s been a true collaboration with such helpful partners, and it’s just a really great good news story for the entire community.”

Steve Curl, spokesperson for CLEP – which contributed £2 million to the project – is also proud to see the bridge complete and opened.

He said: “This bridge now provides real access to the port, which, from a financial point of view, is fabulous for Workington and Cumbria as a whole.

“It’s taken a long time, but at long last, the work has been done and a tremendous asset has been created.

“Having such a strong partnership throughout has been extremely important and beneficial for us all, and I think that’s what Cumbria does best – coming together to work hard – and that’s always a good thing.”

And of course, the new structure couldn’t have been created without contractors, and Emma Porter, of Story Contracting, was delighted to have been involved.

“I really like this project, because there were so many different important needs for so many people," she said.

"Infrastructure can seem a bit boring, but when so many people are coming together to create something to benefit everyone – the community, sponsors, traders, everyone – it's so important, and just brilliant.

"I'm so pleased with how all the partners have worked together through this project, and I'm especially proud of my mentoree, project agent Claudia Hansen, who shared the project brief this morning, and made us all really proud."

She added: "This project has been huge, and it's going to benefit so many people, which is just fantastic for everyone in Workington."