THE boss of Musselburgh Racecourse has warned that a “misguided” decision not to open a key road bridge across the River Esk on race days will put “further strain” on the town’s congested High Street.

Hundreds more vehicles will be forced to travel through the heart of Musselburgh unless an agreement can be reached for the Electric Bridge to be re-opened on race days.

Musselburgh Racecourse is reviewing traffic management procedures after the bridge, which links James Street and New Street and provides easy access to the track, particularly for traffic coming from Edinburgh, was closed permanently yesterday (Thursday).

A long-standing arrangement between bridge owners ScottishPower and East Lothian Council ensured that it was opened on race days and so provided an alternative route for residents and racegoers.

But access will be denied to racegoers attending the race day today (Friday) and racecourse chiefs fear that it might never re-open, with traffic instead forced to use the already-busy High Street.

Bill Farnsworth, Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, called on ScottishPower and East Lothian Council to come to an agreement that would secure future access to the bridge during their regular race meetings.

He said: “The Electric Bridge is in perfectly good working order and this decision to close the bridge will put further strain on the already very busy High Street.

“It will cause disruption to not only our racegoers but to local residents who find it a useful alternative route when we are racing.

“The council’s own Air Quality Action Plan has identified in recent years that Musselburgh High Street road traffic-related pollution does not meet acceptable standards and this misguided move will increase traffic and pollution and add to inconvenience for local residents, businesses, shoppers and visitors to the town.

“I would urge both ScottishPower and East Lothian Council to reconsider this decision and to put their heads together to come up with a solution which benefits the entire community.

“ScottishPower have benefited commercially from the Cockenzie facility for more than 50 years and they could leave behind a meaningful legacy if they were to agree that the bridge can continue to be used to ease traffic congestion on race days.”

The Electric Bridge was built to carry traffic involved in the construction of Cockenzie Power Station in the 1960s and is traditionally opened on race days to assist traffic through the town.

When the power station closed in March 2013, ScottishPower decided there was no longer an operational need to manage or maintain the structure and closed the bridge, which spans the River Esk.

That decision was later revised after the racecourse agreed to certain conditions including providing personnel at the bridge to direct traffic.

A spokesman for ScottishPower confirmed the bridge would not be open today.

He said: “The bridge was open for the race meeting on January 1 but unfortunately will be closed on January 3.

“This had been communicated to Musselburgh Racecourse.

“We are in discussions with East Lothian Council regarding the future use of the bridge.”

An East Lothian Council spokeswoman said: “The bridge is the property of ScottishPower and it is for individual event organisers to request permission from the owners for their needs.

“We will work with event organisers if permission is not granted to have appropriate traffic management in place.”