Installing lighting on Dublin St Bridge has been harder than expected but is on the right path now, Whanganui councillor Rob Vinsen says.

The lights are his idea, inspired by those he saw on a similar structure in Hue, Vietnam.

"It looked fantastic. It was the feature of the city," he said.

Whanganui Mayor Annette Main supported the idea of lighting the bridge two years ago, and a design specification arranged in China was installed by Strong Electrical.

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One span of the bridge has been lit up, as a trial, with the colour of lights changing every 30 seconds. The initial design was unsatisfactory and changes have been made, with more possibly to come.

The bridge has nine spans. The three over land on the Whanganui East end are less visible.

It will cost $9000 to light up each span, for fittings, controller and installation. All six above water could be lit, or every second span, or just the three central spans.

Mr Vinsen doesn't want the cost to fall on ratepayers. He is about to start applying for funding, and wants to get the bridge lit up within six months.

Once the LED lights are installed the electricity to run them will cost very little, he said.

What colours to use are another question.

"The controllers are versatile, and can be set to any sequence or colour. It would have been possible, for instance, to have had just red, white and blue spans to acknowledge the recent tragedy in Nice, France, or to have a single colour and change it periodically."

Lighting the bridge would help Whanganui's paddle steamer.

The PS Waimarie has had problems navigating around the pillars of the Railway and Dublin St bridges on night sailings. Mr Vinsen said council officers were looking for a solution and any lighting to the pillars could add to the effect.