AFTER 21 years of campaigning, the honour of cutting the ribbon at the new Huntworth Railway Bridge fell to Cllr Julian Taylor.

The railway bridge on Huntworth Lane and its replacement had been a source of contention for some time having fallen into disrepair and become a safety hazard in recent years.

The road has been closed at the bridge since February leading to a 22 mile diversion being put in place for motorists, and so it was of great relief to residents of Huntworth, Moorland and Burrowbridge that the road is now ready to be used again.

Ahead of the ribbon-cutting Cllr Taylor said: "This is a significant day for our community.

"We are going back to normal - no more long trips, no more going out earlier and coming back later, and straightforward deliveries of post, papers and parcels.

"We wish success to this bridge, and hope and joy to all those who go over and under it by whatever means, be it driving, walking or riding.

"Let us learn from the events leading up to this bridge replacement and make future consultation a reality."

Walt Richards, a 91-year-old resident, was given the honour of being the first person to travel over the bridge at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, June 25.

Scott Pillinger, Network Rail programme manager, said he was very happy that the project had been completed within the 19 week slot allocated given the obstacles that had to be overcome.

One of the bigger problems was getting around a Somerset County Council policy that no child should have to commute more than 40 minutes - and the only way to avoid breaching this policy was for Network Rail to negotiate with the 12 owners of a private road.

After lengthy negotiations it was agreed that school transport and the emergency services could use the private road, with Network Rail agreeing to fund electronic security access gates as part of the solution.

Ahead of the work being carried out, Mr Pillinger and other Network Rail representatives faced a rather hostile crowd of more than 200 residents packed into the Moorland Village Hall for a public meeting discussing the plans.

There were significant engineering challenges for Network Rail and contractors Balfour Beatty as the rural location meant it was not possible to get large cranes usually used for demolition to reach the site by road.

Therefore it was decided to bring in a Kirow crane - one of only five of its type in the UK, that could travel along the railway.

"I hope the success of this project will build a bit of confidence in the community for Network Rail and Balfour Beatty," Mr Pillinger said.

The road is also now safer thanks to newly installed vehicle constraints either side of the bridge and new state-of-the-art traffic lights.

The road officially opens Wednesday, June 26.