A bridge too far

Anyone who has lived in Perth for more than a week knows the story of the Horseshoe Bridge. How the Railways Department came up with a brilliant solution to the problem of restricted space, making it (according to the Heritage ‘Style’ Council) an “outstanding example of a major urban railway overbridge of its time”.

Well, this is Dodgy Perth, so prepare to have all your illusions shattered. Our comments on the above story are no, no, and God no.

Firstly, it is not innovative. Nor did anyone claim it to be at the time. It was not called The Horseshoe Bridge in 1904, just described as a horseshoe bridge.

Why this particular design? Because wherever they were going to put a bridge, the tight-arse Railway Department didn’t want to hand over cash to landowners on Wellington or Roe Streets. They wanted a bridge that would only use land the Government already owned.

There never was restricted space. Just an attempt to save money.

Speaking of hard cash. Robert Howard, a draughtsman working for the Public Works Department knocked up plans for a horseshoe bridge and then offered to sell them to the Government for £1,000. They told him to bugger off, since he was an employee. So Robert quit the PWD and then sold the plans to the Government for £1,000 anyway. (The cheeky sod actually went to court later to obtain even more money from them!)

The estimated cost of the bridge was £25,000. It was delayed for a couple of years because no one could build it for that amount. When finished, the thing cost £40,000. It would have been much, much cheaper to buy some land from private owners and put up a regular bridge.

Everyone hated the new crossing. And we mean everyone. A footbridge over the railway was pulled down, forcing people to walk the long way round over the new erection. The newspapers were full of outrage. The City of Perth kept complaining to the Government that 22,000 people had to walk over the bridge every day, meaning an 3,600 extra miles daily, or 1,140,000 miles a year.

So, all up… the Railways Department created their own restriction, bought their plan off an employee who drew it on Government time, failed to budget the project correctly, and seriously annoyed everyone who worked in the CBD.

And that, friends, is what the Style Council likes to call an ‘innovate design solution’. Dodgy Perth has a different opinion.