A grieving dad who lost his son to suicide has accused Tay Road Bridge bosses of putting “cost and inconvenience” before lives.
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee took his own life in 2017, has called for suicide prevention measures on the bridge.
But he was told barriers could not be installed due to the huge expense and significant traffic disruption the work would cause.
Phil, who is also campaigning for a 24/7 refuge centre in Dundee, said: “Every other day there are reports of people being present on the bridge and we are all very clear what their intentions are.
“I got in touch with Councillor Lynne Short, chairwoman of the Tay Road Bridge Board, and received a response which left me very concerned.”
In an email to Phil, seen by the Tele, Ms Short said engineering consultants had been approached last year about the implications of installing barriers.
“It is estimated that full design costs would be in the order of £250,000, with actual construction costs in the order of £8 million,” Ms Short wrote.
“To strengthen and install the barriers would be hugely disruptive and take in the order of one year, with the bridge reduced to single-lane traffic for this time (six months per side).
“It should also be noted that while such work might deter someone intent on harming themselves, it would in no way guarantee that they would not be able to.”
Phil accused officials of putting money before human life.
He said: “It would appear changes could be put in place to prevent people climbing over on to the other side of the walkway, but cost and inconvenience appear to supersede crisis.
“The saving of a single life should supersede these factors.”
Speaking to the Tele, Ms Short said: “We take the welfare of every bridge user, especially those who are vulnerable or in crisis, extremely seriously. Every single suicide is a human tragedy.
“We are acutely aware the Tay Road Bridge has become a focal point for people in crisis.
“The bridge manager and his team are dedicated to supporting vulnerable people who present at the bridge, backed by investment in new cameras in 2017 and a thorough training programme for all staff.
“Although bridge availability has been affected on many occasions to allow staff and police to deal with incidents, actual suicides are rare.
“Bridge staff regularly attend suicide prevention meetings to discuss how we all might contribute to suicide reduction across the region, and act on any new initiatives that are applicable to the bridge.
“Any physical measures introduced to the bridge have to be effective and while these might deter someone intent on harming themselves, it would in no way guarantee they would not be able to.
“What is critical is that people who are having suicidal thoughts have someone or somwhere they can turn to when these thoughts become overwhelming so that they do not get to the point of acting on them.”
Superintendent Graeme Murdoch of Police Scotland told the Tele that in the three months to the end of September this year, officers responded to 60 reports of concern for people on the bridge.
Last year, the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board published a Q&A explaining why suicide prevention measures had not been installed, saying barriers were “not practical” due to the 52-year-old structure being unable to support the additional weight.
Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for action to make the Tay Road Bridge safer for people who are thinking of ending their lives.
An online petition demanding measures are put in place to make it harder for people to consider using the bridge to take their own lives.
The Change.org petition has amassed nearly 400 signatures at time of writing, with a target of 500.
It calls for measures such as barriers to be installed in protect vulnerable people.
Michael Low started the petition after a friend took their own life.
He said: “My personal mission is to take this to the authorities.
“The fact is there needs to be higher fencing or other materials or methods to ensure that the Tay Road Bridge is no longer available in a person’s hour of distress.”
The petition has been backed by Phil Welsh, who lost his son Lee to suicide in August 2017.
Phil said: “The bridge needs to be looked at with the evidence that things like barriers can’t be put in place.
“As well as supporting the petition, I have sent a letter to the bridge board asking about protections on the bridge. I haven’t heard anything back yet.
“We’re just trying to keep the conversation going as much as we can because there’s a lot more that can be done to help people in need.
“We’ve also been campaigning for a 24-hour crisis centre, like in Edinburgh.
“I do think they should look at what can be done at the bridge, with barriers being a big one. If it is the case that they can’t put barriers in place then that’s fine, but I would like to see evidence supporting that.
“All routes should be followed before making a decision.
“The grassroots support should be there to help people before they get to that stage, but there should still be something at the bridge.”
Officials from the Tay Road Bridge Joint Board have examined such measures and ultimately decided it was not feasible to make any substantial changes to the bridge’s structure.
The bridge deck cantilevers — long beams or girders commonly used in bridge construction — would be unable to support additional barriers because of the strain windy weather would put on them, it has been claimed.
Board vice-chairman Jonny Tepp said the bridge management are actively looking at ways to make the bridge safe.
“They do their best to make themselves aware of what action can be taken,” the Liberal Democrat councillor for Tay Bridgehead said.
Dundee City Council also launched an online campaign last month highlighting where people can go for support if they are having suicidal thoughts.
If you need help, or need someone to talk to, a Samaritans volunteers can help.
Contact them on 116 123, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The parents of a young Dundee dad who took his own life have hit out at thieves who stole sentimental trinkets from their son’s grave.
Lee Welsh, 27, was found dead at his Peddie Street home in the city’s West End in August 2017 after suffering from depression.
His dad Phil and mum Lesley discovered the heartbreaking theft when they visited Lee’s grave at Birkhill Cemetery on Sunday.
Phil said: “Lesley had four little glass trinkets in the shape of diamonds hanging on the little fence that goes round the gravestone.
“They aren’t worth anything financially but they are significant to us as a family as the words ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’ from a Pink Floyd song are engraved on the gravestone.
“We know they aren’t worth any money but it has been really upsetting for us.
“When we realised they had been taken we were really hurt.”
Phil added: “Whoever took them probably doesn’t think too much about what they have done but I want them to realise that taking things from a grave can be desperately upsetting for those left behind and grieving.
“People should think more carefully about their actions and be aware of the hurt they can cause.”
Since Lee died, Phil and Lesley have been campaigning for a 24/7 crisis centre in Dundee to give immediate access to people having suicidal thoughts.
They have also organised various fundraising events for groups and centres that currently offer support.
The next event is a soup and pudding lunch to be held at Dundee West Church on May 25.
Money raised from the lunch will this year go to the Art Angel charity.
Lesley said: “Art Angel is a unique and inspired arts project run by and for people with experience of mental health difficulties in Dundee.
“It helps people work towards recovery and mental wellbeing.”
A similar event last year raised almost £1,000 for Dundee Association for Mental Health (DAMH).
The second Lee Welsh memorial football match is also planned for July 20.
It will be held at North End Park and this year the money raised will be donated to Art Angel on behalf of the Not in Vain for Lee charity.
As well as football, there will be other attractions including a bouncy castle, face and henna painting and a demonstration by Dundee Mods Scooter Club.
Last year’s match, organised by Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin, raised more than £1,000 for DAMH.