MINING experts have started hi-tech work to find out the causes of cracks and subsidence on a key East Lancashire walking and cycling path.

A team of specialists led by the Coal Authority are investigating problems on the River Calder bridge, which is part of the Padiham Greenway, near Burnley.

The charity Sustrans, which owns the popular two mile walking and cycling route, closed the bridge in June 2021 when routine inspections by engineers revealed the pier in the river was sinking.

This has caused the arches to fail making the bridge at risk of collapsing.

Sustrans also closed the adjacent lower footbridge as there is potential for falling masonry from the River Calder bridge harming users.

Now Coal Authority is drilling into old mine workings close to the bridge to insert a sonar device to get a clearer picture of what is happening underground.

Sustrans carried out emergency stabilisation work in October and November 2021.

This involved injecting grout into voids in the ground, including the mine workings, to temporarily stabilise the bridge.

The bridge is likely to be closed until at least late this year.

Malcolm Scott of the Coal Authority’s public safety and subsidence team said: “We are currently carrying out investigative works at the site to see if the damage to the bridge has been caused by the mine workings.

"If that is found to be the case, the authority will work with our partners to provide a permanent solution so the bridge can be reopened as soon as reasonably practicable.”

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham visited the works along with Hapton with Park ward Cllr Jamie McGowan who in December urged Burnley Council to step up the pressure to reopen the bridge.

Mr Higginbotham said: “The Padiham Greenway Bridge serves as a vital connection for people in Padiham and further afield.

"Heavily used by dog walkers and cyclists it needs to be reopened as soon as possible.

“Using sonar equipment will enable us to see exactly what is taking place underneath the ground so that a plan can be put together.”

Will Haynes, infrastructure director for Sustrans said: “We are committed to fixing the bridge and opening up this section of the Greenway again as soon as we can. This is one of our most popular local paths for walking, cycling and using a mobility aid. The safety of our users is our top priority.

“Unfortunately it is likely to take some time.

"As a charity we will need to work to raise the funds to fix it.”