Security fears after 'urban explorers' climb Plymouth bridge
THE security of the iconic rail bridge between Plymouth and Saltash has been called into question – after daring ‘urban explorers’ climbed the structure and took pictures from the top.
The Royal Albert Bridge, part of which crosses Ministry of Defence property, is currently undergoing refurbishment and parts are covered in scaffolding.
But at the height of last week’s storms, under the cover of darkness, a team of Plymouth photographers accessed the site – and even climbed inside the giant tubes.
The intrusion raises fears that the bridge, including hidden structural areas, could easily be accessed by virtually anyone.
A spokesman for the urban explorers S-10 Hunters said: “We feel that the security does need to be increased.
“There are two main access points, both of which are easily accessible even by passers by especially on the Saltash side of the bridge.
“Despite us using the safety equipment we had, people would be able to easily climb the scaffolding and then into the tubes.”
Urban explorers make their way into and onto public and private property, including derelict sites, partly to document the scene and to take pictures others would rarely see.
But the bridge intrusion has now sparked an investigation by police.
Taziker Industrial, the company contracted to refurbish the Brunel’s historic bridge over the River Tamar informed the authorities after the images from the structure were posted online.
The images show people climbing the bridge, taking pictures from the top of the structure then climbing inside the iconic tubes and taking internal shots.
Peter Cook, Taziker’s project manager for the bridge work, branded the stunt illegal and dangerous.
“Whoever has taken these pictures has not only potentially broken the law, they have also put themselves at great danger,” he said.
“We have contacted the police, British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence police to inform them of what has happened.
“In order to get up to these heights on the bridge the photographers will have had to be on MoD land – so especially in the current climate they are very interested in talking to the trespassers.
“This was very dangerous, and people need to know this is definitely not something they should be doing.”
S-10 Hunters insisted they took safety precautions, and said accessing the site was very simple.
A spokesman said: “We would be willing to speak to the bridge project people with regards to how exactly we gained access therefore allowing them to possibly make some changes to stop others doing the same.”
On their website the group say their aim is “to document Britain’s derelict and forgotten buildings and areas by taking photographs and archiving them.”
The say “...as urban explorers, we take photographs of and from hard to reach areas that are inaccessible and out of the reach of the public.”
The S-10 group has also recently taken pictures inside Charles Church, the abandoned Drakewall mine and on the privately-owned Drake’s Island.
They have uploaded pictures from various Plymouth city centre rooftop locations to their website.
Posting about their Royal Albert Bridge climb online they said they managed to scale the structure “despite the torrential downpours and high winds.”
A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said they had been made aware of the photographs.
The spokesman said: “At present, there is no indication of when the photographs were taken, or whether any offences relating to the railway line, which falls under BTP’s jurisdiction, have taken place.
“Anyone with information about offences on the railway infrastructure can contact British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40, or text 61016.”
A spokesman for Network Rail added: “It is a criminal offence to trespass on the railway and those who do put themselves at risk of serious injury or death.
“Anyone with information about this incident or any other railway-related crime should contact British Transport Police.”
S-10 Hunters say they were aware of the law and did not set out to cause trouble.
“The reasons for our actions are to record historical sites such as this and to show people the amazing feat of engineering that is unseen to the public,” the group’s spokesman said.
“Whilst exploring locations such as this we believe the safety of ourselves and others around us is absolutely paramount.
“The entrances that we use to locations are always kept as a close guarded secret as we do not want others to repeat what we have done so the area is not vandalised and nobody is at risk of harming themselves.
“As far as our safety concerns us we all have experience in different sets of skills.
“One of us has excessive climbing experience and all of the equipment required to undertake these tasks safely.
“Whilst on the bridge each of us was wearing a harness and always clipped on to a sturdy part of the bridge.
“Also we have experience on construction sites and scaffolding so know what signs to look out for such as the scaffold tags on the stair case and at the top for the main body of scaffolding.
“One of our first observations was that the scaffolding was checked recently prior to our visit.
“We understand that all hazards cannot be eliminated however we minimise them to the maximum level we can.
“We do not and won’t encourage others to copy anything that we have done or will do, however we cannot control the actions of others.
“We are fully aware of the legal implications that may occur with what we do.
“We have a vast knowledge of the laws associated with these activities, and therefore only ever carry safety equipment and our photography gear.
“We do not condone any damage to anything associated with any of our exploits therefore keeping all sites that we access in the best condition possible.”