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Historic bridge at centre of Tom Cruise row to be put back into service after renovation

The 151-metre Pilchowice Bridge was saved after plans to blow it up for the new Mission Impossible film were revealed.
Paweł Kuźniar

The historic bridge at the centre of last year’s Mission Impossible scandal is to be returned to the care of local authorities who have pledged to renovate it so that it can once again be used for train traffic.

The news marks the latest twist to a remarkable story that saw the abandoned crossing make international news over summer after it was revealed that negotiations had been entered which would have seen the structure blown up as part of a film stunt.

First constructed to service connections between Jelenia Góra and Wleń, the 151-metre Pilchowice Bridge was built with a parabolic bottom made entirely of riveted steel.Public domain

First constructed to service connections between Jelenia Góra and Wleń, the 151-metre Pilchowice Bridge was built with a parabolic bottom made entirely of riveted steel.

When the line launched on July 28th, 1909, it was greeted with widespread enthusiasm by a public that were bowled over by its credentials as a tourist attraction. Winding through bucolic, rural landscapes, for many, the route’s high point was the bridge.

Weighing 400-tons, and supported by two sandstone pillars, its 40-metre height made it one of the most impressive structures in the region and afforded commanding views of the recently built reservoir below.polska-org.pl

Weighing 400-tons, and supported by two sandstone pillars, its 40-metre height made it one of the most impressive structures in the region and afforded commanding views of the recently built reservoir below.

When this was finally filled, Kaiser Wilhelm II was invited for the bridge’s inauguration and attended a ceremony marking such on November 16th, 1912.

Despite it being decommissioned in 2017, its striking silhouette and sense of gentle decay ensured it wasn’t entirely forgotten: appreciated by film crews, it appeared as a backdrop in movies such as Republika Dzieci as well as the video game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.Press materials

Cresting in popularity, by the 1920s its reported that up to 70,000 people were using the line annually.

However, more recent years saw a reversal in the bridge’s fortunes. Never electrified, it began to fall into decline, a process that was accelerated once trains stopped running in 2017.

Alarm bells sounded when Mission Impossible director Christopher McQuarrie posted a picture of the bridge to social media. Later, locals confirmed that they had spotted film crews scouting the bridge accompanied by army sappers.Christopher McQuarrie/Instagram

Despite this, its striking silhouette and sense of gentle decay ensured it wasn’t entirely forgotten: appreciated by film crews, it appeared as a backdrop in movies such as Republika Dzieci as well as the video game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter.

Alarm bells, though, sounded when Mission Impossible director Christopher McQuarrie posted a picture of the bridge to social media. Later, locals confirmed that they had spotted film crews scouting the bridge accompanied by army sappers.

McQuarrie later issued a statement denying that the bridge’s outright destruction had ever been on the agenda but admitted that a proposal had been made to detonate a section of the crossing in the new Tom Cruise film.CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/PAP/EPA

As rumours swirled that it would be blown to smithereens for the seventh instalment of the Mission Impossible series, McQuarrie issued a statement denying that the bridge’s outright destruction had ever been on the agenda. With global outcry reaching a crescendo, he did though admit that a proposal had been made to detonate a section of the crossing that had been scheduled to be pulled down.

With the bridge subjected to intense scrutiny, it was entered into the Register of Monuments of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in August, but not before the Foundation for the Protection of Industrial Heritage in Silesia had claimed that they’d found evidence that the bridge had been purposefully damaged to add credence to the notion that it was in poor technical condition.

The bridge was entered into the Register of Monuments of the Lower Silesian Voivodeship in August.CC BY-SA 3.0

Moreover, according to findings made by Dr. Józef Rabiega from the Wrocław University of Technology, film industry representatives purposefully manipulated data to exaggerate the costs of any renovation.

Now, after all the drama and speculation, it’s future appears safeguarded after the Marshal of Lower Silesia, Cezary Przybylski, confirmed its restoration.

State railway company PKP sought to reassure locals posting on Twitter: “There are over 3,300 railway bridges [in Poland]. We do not blow up the bridges, we improve their condition – the historical ones are preserved!”PKP

“Railway line No. 283 running from Jelenia Góra to Lwówek Śląski, which runs across the bridge over Lake Pilchowickie will be taken over local authorities,” he said. “This is an important part of a big project to revitalize disused railway routes and restore passenger connections.”

Pryzbylski added that while the handover was yet to be officially formalized, he expected it to happen any time soon.  

“We anticipate this will happen in the near future,” he continued. “Simultaneously, we’re already prepared to take over the management of line No. 283 from PKP PLK under certain conditions so that we can start preparing its restoration.

Now, Marshal of Lower Silesia, Cezary Przybylski, has confirmed the bridge’s restoration, saying: “Railway line No. 283 running from Jelenia Góra to Lwówek Śląski, which runs across the bridge over Lake Pilchowickie will be taken over by local authorities. This is an important part of a big project to revitalize disused railway routes and restore passenger connections.”Aleksander Koźmiński/PAP

“The development of railways in Lower Silesia is a priority of ours. The line running from Jelenia Góra through Wleń to Lwówek Śląski is extremely picturesque and in future it will be used by Lower Silesian Railways.”

As yet no timeline has been issued for completion of the vaunted works, but while the bridge’s renovation is forecast to run to several million, councillors are hopeful that it won’t break the coffers.

“I don’t believe the costs that the film representatives came up with,” said councillor Patryk Wild. “It might be necessary for us to limit speeds on the bridge to under 30 kilometres per hour, but this bridge is capable of holding a lot – for light local traffic, it won’t even need to be strengthened.”

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