A HUGE void up to six metres deep has been scoured out of the river bed below Tadcaster bridge, a public meeting has heard.
The hole was discovered under a collapsed structure during an underwater survey by divers following the post-Christmas floods, said David Bowe, director of business and environmental services at North Yorkshire County Council.
He said the cause of the void and its actual depth was still under investigation as debris was removed.
He said the aim of the bridge reconstruction plans would be to make it as strong and resilient as possible but also to carry out improvements, such as widening it for pedestrians and even vehicles.
"We are looking to do that, " he said. "I am not saying we can do that. I am not making promises."
Mr Bowe told the community engagement forum at the Riley Smith Hall, which was attended by hundreds of residents and business owners on Monday night, that the construction of a temporary footbridge across the River Wharfe had been delayed by about a week because of concerns about the stability of the bank on the west side, which had had to be piled.
He said he hoped it would be possible to open the bridge to the public at 2pm on Friday, "fingers crossed".
He said the footbridge would be lit at night but expensive lighting would be removed from the viaduct which had been used to cross the river since the bridge partially collapsed.
A shuttle bus service which had connected the two sides of the town via the A64 was under review and would be reduced in frequency with the opening of the footbridge.
A new service would also connect the eastern side of the town with York.
A Yorkshire Water representative said flood defences in Tadcaster had suffered minor damage and discussions had begun with the county council and Yorkshire Water about potential improvements to defences and it was essential to work in partnership with the community.