THE main section of St Neots’s new £3.5million Willow Bridge over the Great Ouse is due to be lifted into place today (Wednesday), weather permitting.

Weighing 37 tonnes, the 40-metre-long main section will span the river, providing a pedestrian and cycle link between Eaton Socon and Eynesbury as a new section of cycling charity Sustrans's national cycle network.

The scheme, which is being paid for by developer contributions, Cambridgeshire County Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and the Big Lottery Fund, also includes improving the network of foot and cycle paths linking to the bridge and around St Neots.

The lifting of the main span will give residents and passers by the first view of the bridge's landmark design in full.

Key features of the 346-metre steel structure bridge include its bow-string arch design and a three-metre wide cycle and footpath, which will be coated with an anti-slip surface, the county council said yesterday (Tuesday).

The bridge and approach paths will be lit at night to make it safer for people to use, and the access ramps at either end of the bridge will be of a gentle gradient (1 in 20) to allow access for people with disabilities, a spokesman added.

Work to build the bridge has been under way since March, and the remaining sections of the bridge, including the approach ramps, will be installed over the coming weeks. The project is currently on schedule for an early autumn opening date.

Today's work means that for the safety reasons there will be a short diversion route on the Ouse Valley Way footpath for about a week. The river will also be closed to navigation for the day while the bridge is lifted into place.

County Councillor Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning, said: "Lifting the main span of the bridge into place is a major milestone in the construction works and will mean that, for the first time, people will be able to see the quality design of the bridge in full.

"When complete it will provide a great link for pedestrians and cyclists between Eaton Socon and Eynesbury."

Huntingdonshire District Council's deputy leader, Cllr Nick Guyatt, added: "We have fully supported this project from its first inception as part of the original transport strategy for St Neots some 10 years ago, and in these difficult economic times it is pleasing to be able to confirm our financial contribution in excess of £500,000.

"It is a key part of the overall cycling and walking network for St Neots as a whole and will be a fantastic asset for the people of Eaton Socon and Eynesbury in particular."

INFORMATION: As reported in last week's Hunts Post, to celebrate the new bridge, people in St Neots are being invited to nominate three local characters to be immortalised in steel alongside a bench next to the bridge as part of a national art project from Sustrans. All entries will be entered into a free prize draw to win a bike worth £200, donated by local bike shop Wheeler's. Deadline for all entries is May 30. To find out more, download an entry form or enter online visit the portrait bench pages at www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/transport/stneotsbridge