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How a rusty bridge changed lives in Glasgow

sighthill bridge
[BBC]

It's a year since an apparently "rusty" bridge was erected across the busy M8 motorway in Glasgow.

Decades after the road divided the city, the eye-catching structure finally reconnects communities in the north with the centre.

Local pedestrians and cyclists no longer face lengthy commutes and say Sighthill Bridge has "transformed" their journeys to work and college.

They told BBC Scotland News they feel safer and have more pride in the area.

Local man Ramsay Sartawi, 35, said the bridge had already become a city landmark.

"Everyone knows where the rusty bridge is," he said. "I can't remember what the actual official name is, but the Rusty Bridge is its name."

Ramsay Sartawi
Ramsay Sartawi has lived in Sighthill for several years [BBC]

It has made life a lot easier for locals, Mr Sartawi said.

"When this wasn't here, you had to walk almost all the way to the west end and then back in or else down towards the Royal [Infirmary] - a good mile in the other direction," he added.

"So it's a lot more convenient if you're living in Springburn or Sighthill."

Unlike the other concrete bridges over the motorway, Sighthill Bridge is made of Cor-Ten steel, a long-lasting material which requires little maintenance.

Weighing about 1,000 tonnes and spanning 74m (80yds), the bridge features seating areas and landscaping, including thousands of new plants.

With a long southern approach ramp for wheelers, it was designed to encourage more active travel in the area.

Mr Sartawi said: "There was a little bridge here before but it was very old and not well lit with a dodgy entrance - you wouldn't really use it at night."

"Before it was just grass and mud around here, but now you see people here all the time just sitting or reading or hanging out, just because it's a nice place to be when the weather's good," he added.

Simon Taylor
Simon Taylor said the project had improved the look of the area [BBC]

The bridge is part of a £250m regeneration of Sighthill - the biggest UK project of its kind outside London, according to Glasgow City Council.

Plans for the area also include almost 1,000 new homes and landscaping.

Simon Taylor, who lives in nearby Speirs Wharf, said it had transformed his commute next to the motorway into a "country walk".

"Before it was a small bridge and it wasn't as nice, all of the landscaping has been restored so it's a much nicer walk into town," he said. "It's connected everything up and it looks better.

"There used to be tower blocks as well and this must be better than the high rises.

"There's stuff going on all down the canal corridor."

Sighthill was once home to 10 tower blocks which housed thousands of residents.

Built in the 1960s, the council began demolishing the high rises as part of the regeneration project over the past two decades.

Lauren Guthrie, who lives in Sighthill, said the bridge made her feel much safer when walking home from lectures.

The 21-year-old student said: "I lived locally before moving into the new housing and it's changed the area a lot. It feels much safer.

The current Sighthill bridge over the M8
The "rusty bridge" has replaced a previous pedestrian bridge at Sighthill [BBC]
sighthill bridge
[BBC]

"If I'm coming home from the town, it's all well lit and I can just go over the bridge whereas before you're talking about a big detour when it's quite dark and there's not many people about.

"I don't feel unsafe walking home and there's always people around."

She added: "It has helped a lot - especially before it was an area that was deprived but I can see the difference.

"Hopefully they do continue to make investments as I'd like to see it go a bit further."

Emily Dibble, a 20-year-old student at Glasgow Caledonian University, said she usually parked her car in Sighthill to get to her lectures.

Emily Dibble
Emily Dibble used the bridge to commute to her lessons in the city centre [BBC]

"I park here for free and I just commute to university," she said. "It's so much easier and better than paying for parking in the centre.

"I live about 15 minutes away and only recently saw it advertised when it was done up. It's made things much easier."

In December 2022, the £22m Sighthill Community Campus officially opened to combine two local primary schools and open a new nursery for the area.

A new playpark followed, as well as new housing next to the bridge in Sighthill Circus.

Residents started moving into the new homes in October 2023.

More "mixed-tenure" housing is planned for 2024, as well as the opening of allotment spaces for locals.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "The Sighthill Bridge has been a great addition to not only the ongoing regeneration of Sighthill, but as an example of how an infrastructure project can deliver benefits to people's lives.

"The striking bridge reconnected Sighthill to the nearby city centre, providing a new active travel route to north Glasgow, and is a symbol of the transformation of this area."