DRILLING rigs have been erected at the side of historic Coniston Cold bridge by engineers looking at how best to re-establish two way traffic almost eight months after a crash demolished the parapet.

It has been functioning with one lane only operated by traffic lights since last August when the accident left a lorry hanging over the edge.

The bridge, built by famous 18th century Yorkshire bridge master John Carr, is on one of the major strategic trans-Pennine routes crucial to the economy of North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire County Council Craven area committee was told when it met on Thursday.

Money for the project is expected to be met from the £90 million which has been earmarked by the Government to be spent in the north, North Yorkshire County Council Craven area committee was told.

Highway chiefs are now exploring options on how to re-open the A65 in both directions and are working on producing a feasibility study, said Craven's highway manager James Malcolm.

"They are looking at the topography of the land at the side of the bridge and are also examining the existing structure to gauge it's capacity," he said.

Various options would be explored including retaining traffic controlled by lights which was the least likely given the danger of shunting accidents.

There was also the possibility of a new bridge alongside the present structure which would involve the purchase of land.

Committee chairman Councillor David Ireton said he wanted to see a regular update on the progress of the study because the quicker the removal of the traffic lights the better especially on such an important trans-penning route. "The longer the lights are here the worse it will get," he said.

Councillor Andy Solloway said the problem was that the bridge was too narrow to take modern vehicles especially when two wagons met.

There was a possibility of building a new separate single lane bridge to take traffic going in one direction or to build another lane attached as a "cantilever" to the present structure.

"That would be the cheaper solution I guess but it would be far more problematic because this is an historic structure and heritage groups would need to be consulted."