THERE are grave fears for the viaduct rail bridge in Manilla, with community members up in arms about a plan to remove the local landmark.
John Holland Group, who is charged with maintaining the disused rail-line between Tamworth and Barraba, has raised safety concerns with the bridge and locals fear it could be torn down.
Emily Bowman, a Manilla property owner and rail-trail advocate, said residents don’t want to see the “cultural icon lost”.
She fears the removal of the viaduct could derail a push to establish a rail-trail between Tamworth and Barraba, which could see the disused track become a new tourist attraction for the region.
Mrs Bowman said John Holland Group hasn’t held any community consultation regarding the proposed removal of the viaduct.
“John Holland Group had said they were going to hold a community consultation meeting on Saturday of the June long-weekend,” she said.
“There were members of the community expecting this meeting but it was cancelled at short notice.”
Ms Bowman said there should be an assessment into how much it would cost to restore and repair the viaduct before it gets pulled down.
“Until we know what that figure is, I don’t think anything should go ahead,” she said.
“Perhaps council could get a heritage grant to fix it up, or if the rail trail project goes ahead, part of the rail trail funding could include to repair and restore the viaduct as has happened with other rail trails.”
A spokesperson for John Holland Rail said there aren’t plans to remove the viaduct yet.
“We are proposing to remove the timber sections of the viaduct in the future, in order to address safety concerns where the life-expired viaduct passes over public roads and through the showground,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.
“No plans are in place to remove the viaduct at this time, however safety is our top priority and any decision made will need to ensure the community is not at risk.”
Community engagement will be undertaken in the coming months.