Safety hopes for bridge over M62
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.thecalmzone.net it also has a helpline (0800 58 58 58).