A BUSY railway station footbridge has been closed over fears for public safety.
Train operator c2c has closed the footbridge between platforms at Chalkwell after engineers ruled corrosion had made it unsafe.
Trains were forced to slow to 5mph, causing delays, and passengers are advised to allow more time to travel as they have to access the London-bound platform via a separate public footbridge outside the station.
The 80-year-old bridge might have to be removed, presenting a major engineering challenge and a headache for commuters.
Network Rail, which is responsible for railway infrastructure, was monitoring the bridge due to concerns over the corrosion and engineers decided to close it immediately on Wednesday morning after an inspection.
Trains were forced to slow to 5mph on Wednesday, but were up to 40mph by Thursday.
Workmen had to lay new tarmac so passengers could get to the London-bound platform via an unused back gate, next to the cinder path.
Staff were on site directing passengers.
Network Rail said concerns over the condition of the bridge had been growing.
A spokeswoman said: “Network Rail had a concern regarding the condition of the bridge, and in particular the level of corrosion it was suffering.
“We knew the bridge would need work at some point and therefore we were monitoring its condition. However, an inspection on Tuesday night revealed the footbridge had deteriorated and we took the immediate decision to close it. Safety is our number one priority.
“The existing bridge closed early on Wednesday morning and work began immediately to provide an alternative route to access the platforms.
“Site investigations and structural analysis is being undertaken by specialist engineers.
“Network Rail is exploring long-term options for the bridge, either replacing it or repairing it. Short-term options are in discussion.
“We are working closely with c2c to decide the next steps. We realise the bridge is an important route for the travelling public and therefore we will try to keep disruption to a minimum and resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”
A c2c spokesman said: “The station remains open, with passengers able to access trains to London using the adjacent public footbridge.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience this is causing our customers.”