A BRIDGE in the heart of a busy village is to be replaced as part of improvements to the rail network between Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The residents of Middleton St George, near Darlington, have been warned to expect major disruption when the road bridge across Dinsdale Station is dismantled and rebuilt by Network Rail in October this year.

The village will be effectively cut in two for up to four days while workers replace the middle section of the bridge.

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Darlington Borough Council has pledged to work with Network Rail to keep disruption to a minimum during the work, which has been timed for October half term.

The bridge replacement is part of a major scheme of works at Dinsdale Station that will raise the clearance height of the bridge to allow freight trains to use the line between Teesport and the East Coast Mainline for the first time.

The plans were first mooted two years ago, but have been delayed several times while different options were considered.

Sue Dobson, sustainable transport manager at Darlington Borough Council, attended a meeting of Middleton St George Parish Council to discuss the plans.

She said: “We will work very closely with the contractor about traffic management and to work on diversion routes. The keys issues from a council perspective will be noise management and also access, especially for pedestrians.

“Network Rail have not chosen a contractor yet, but once they are in place we will work with them to minimise disruption. We know it’s a very busy road and well used by pedestrians so we will do everything we can to limit the amount of time it is fully closed.”

The bridge replacement is part of a package of improvements for Dinsdale Station, including CCTV, a new announcement system, live train updates and new shelters.

A new half-hourly train service between Darlington and Middlesbrough, running up to 11pm, will start in May.

Speaking about the bridge replacement plans, parish chairwoman Doris Jones said: “I think it’s a small inconvenience for a huge gain. The improvements will make it a nicer train station at the heart of the village and there is the wider picture for the freight services from Teesside.”