A BOLTON footbridge is to open again this week — after six years of planning and a £1.8 million replacement scheme.

Wilson’s Bridge over the River Croal at Kearsley has been closed since 2008 when it was declared unstable.

A new bridge was installed by United Utilities at the end of February and MP Yasmin Qureshi will officially open it for the public on Friday at 1.30pm.

United Utilities project manager Carl Stringer said: “Local people have been very patient and we’re keen to mark the occasion of the bridge re-opening. It isn’t just a footbridge, it also carries one of Bolton’s main sewer pipes underneath it.

“As long as it was unstable there was a risk to our pipe and the river. The foundations of the new bridge have been pile-driven into the ground so it should serve the community for generations to come.”

Ms Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, said: “I’m delighted that the bridge has been replaced and is now re-opening.

"It has been a long process to get it back but I’m pleased that we are finally there and local residents can return to using this bridge and important crossing over the River Croal.”

Engineers had to overcome the difficulties of lifting the 47-metre, 30-tonne bridge into position right next to the original while making sure they did not harm any nearby industrial heritage or the environment.

The area is in a site of special scientific interest for its rare plant life and close to the disused Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal.

Residents and councillors have been invited to the official opening as well as members of the rambling community. The am-bitious scheme, which also included sewer improvements, has been years in the planning.

The new steel structure has been designed to be in keeping with the original and at the end of February it was brought to site in three parts, where it was bolted together before being lifted into position using a 500-tonne crane.

Over the past 10 weeks, engineers have been diverting the old sewer into the pipe underneath the new bridge, removing the old bridge and reinstating the construction site area, in readiness for reopening to the public.