Surveys point to plans for a new viaduct at river mouth
WHISPER it quietly — the River Loughor may be in line for a new viaduct.
For the past week or so eagle-eyed people crossing the estuary would have spotted what looks like a mini oil platform next to the wooden viaduct which carried the main West Wales railway line.
Rumours of vast oil or gas discoveries were floated by some but closer investigation has revealed the platform is part of a survey to determine the future of the 151-year-old structure.
Built by the prolific Victorian engineer Isambard Brunel in 1860 the viaduct is currently a grade two listed structure.
The original structure was built completely in timber and later replaced by wrought iron.
The crossing sits on a five-mile section of track between Cockett and Duffryn which was reduced to single track operation in 1986 to save on maintenance costs.
In March the then deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones announced improvements to track infrastructure to boost the reliability and performance in the area. A spokeswoman for Network rail said: "We are doing some survey work at the Loughor viaduct.
"We are only using barges and there is no drilling platform. We are checking the structure and also looking at plans to entirely replace the structure as well."
When pushed on the matter of the structure being replaced she said: "We are still in the middle of planning and the survey will probably take a few months to complete.
"We need to carry out the survey and see what condition the structure is in and look at the surrounding environment.
"It's a fairly old bridge and the area contains a lot of environmental interest."
Tony Rees, a 71-year-old retired Penclawdd cockler, said: "At first I thought it was an oil rig, it was a muggy old day and I saw it coming out of the mist."
Mr Rees questioned whether it was worthwhile replacing the structure.
He said: "The bridge itself is still sound although it's made out of wood and I should imagine it's good for a few more years yet, it's not very long.
"I wouldn't think it would be an easy job and no doubt cost a lot of money.
"I would also question if there are enough people using the train in West Wales."