Safety hopes for bridge over M62

Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

HEALTH of­fi­cials are push­ing for ma­jor safety changes to Scam­mon­den Bridge over the M62.

The 120ft bridge link­ing Kirklees with Calderdale has warn­ing signs from the Sa­mar­i­tans for those in de­spair.

But High­ways Eng­land, the gov­ern­ment agency in charge of the M62 struc­ture, re­cently in­sisted that higher bar­ri­ers could not be in­stalled.

It told the Ex­am­iner last Septem­ber that its re­search had found the bridge could not take the weight of a taller ‘sui­cide pre­ven­tion para­pet.’

Now, just a few weeks af­ter a 51-year-old man died af­ter plung­ing off the edge, Kirklees Coun­cil has re­vealed it is still lob­by­ing for it to be made safer.

A Pub­lic Health of­fi­cial at Kirklees Coun­cil has said they are seek­ing some kind of struc­tural safety up­grade.

What that might be has not yet been re­vealed in pub­lic, but the of­fi­cial said they were telling the peo­ple in charge that the longterm ben­e­fits would out­weigh the costs.

In 2012 a West York­shire Po­lice traf­fic of­fi­cer claimed it cost the econ­omy £1m a minute to close the M62.

Most of the clo­sures fol­low­ing a sui­cide from Scam­mon­den Bridge have been for sev­eral hours.

The rev­e­la­tion that bridge im­prove­ment plans are still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated came dur­ing a dis­cus­sion about sui­cide pre­ven­tion at the coun­cil’s Health and Adult So­cial Care Scru­tiny Com­mit­tee, which also re­vealed the bor­ough has a slightly higher than av­er­age sui­cide rate.

Pub­lic Health of­fi­cial Re­becca El­lis said: “We’re do­ing some work around Scam­mon­den Bridge, look­ing at the cost of each death.

“There’s strong ev­i­dence that while the up­front cost (of im­prov­ing the bridge) is very high, we’re try­ing to de­ter­mine the other costs.”

Clr Richard Smith asked: “If it’s harder to use Scam­mon­den Bridge, will that stop peo­ple or will they find an­other way?”

Mrs El­lis told the coun­cil­lor that struc­tural changes at the Golden Gate bridge in San Fran­cisco had halved the sui­cide rate there. “Some peo­ple will still find a way,” she said. “But there is ev­i­dence that if you make it harder it de­ters peo­ple from do­ing it, and that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily off­load it to an­other area.

“If you de­ter peo­ple at that point there’s time to do some­thing to help them.”

She added: “A few peo­ple have sur­vived at­tempts from Golden Gate bridge and one said the mo­ment his foot left the bridge he re­alised he didn’t want to do it.

“Our point is that even un­til that last point there’s things we should be try­ing to do to pre­vent it.”

A spokesper­son for the High­ways Agency said: “We are com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing sui­cides on our net­work and we pub­lished our Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Strat­egy in Novem­ber 2017 and we are de­vel­op­ing our re­gional plans.

“We will be work­ing closely with lo­cal author­i­ties to pro­vide a joined up mul­ti­a­gency ap­proach to sui­cide pre­ven­tion.”

The scru­tiny panel also heard about wider sui­cide pre­ven­tion work in Kirklees.

There were 112 sui­cides in the bor­ough over the three-year pe­riod of 2014-16, leav­ing Kirklees marginally over the na­tional rate per 100,000 peo­ple. It is still be­low the York­shire av­er­age. The data has shown a rise from 8.6 deaths per 100,000 to 10 per 100,000 over a five-year pe­riod in Kirklees.

Mrs El­lis said there was ev­i­dence sui­cide rates were linked to re­ces­sion and re­vealed the last peak was in 2008.

If you’re suf­fer­ing from sui­ci­dal thoughts there’s plenty of help out there.

Sa­mar­i­tans are avail­able to lis­ten 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 116 123.

A hot­line for teenagers and young adults called PAPYRUS is avail­able on (freep­hone) 0800 0684141.

Cam­paign Against Liv­ing Mis­er­ably (CALM) is for young men who are feel­ing un­happy. As well as their web­site www.the­calm­ it also has a helpline (0800 58 58 58).

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