Railway bridge closure costs businesses and residents £2m
THE controversial closure of the railway bridge in Castle Cary is coming to an end, but has reportedly cost the local economy millions of pounds.
The bridge has been closed since July, and work is anticipated to continue until November, a total of 19 weeks.
The resulting 32 mile diversion for goods vehicles has resulted in over £1 million in costs for just eight major local businesses, and the cumulative effect on smaller businesses has been calculated as a further £1 million at least. Additional costs have also been borne by local residents in hugely increased journey times and inconvenience.
Somerston and Frome MP David Heath discussed the issues surrounding the closing of the Ansford railway bridge near Castle Cary station and the diversion of traffic wanting to use the A371 in parliament last Wednesday.
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He said: "Of course I accept that essential maintenance work on bridges has to be done, and that will inevitably cause inconvenience. But what worries me is that Network Rail, a private company with no democratic accountability, can arrange matters entirely for their own convenience and cost savings, without any consideration for the effect on the local community.
"They have made little or no effort to minimise disruption or organise the work to reduce the closure period, they have rejected any attempt to find ways of providing viable alternatives for local people, and even the promises to ensure proper advertising of access to local businesses and adequate signage have been unsatisfactory.
"The costs and the inconvenience to local people have been enormous, and I think people would have been understanding if they felt everything was being done to help them through, but sadly that is not the impression that's been given."
Network Rail has said that work is progressing on schedule and the bridge will open to signal-controlled single-lane traffic from November 15 and fully reopen on November 29.
David Warburton, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Somerton and Frome contacted the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to express his concern at the detrimental effect of the closure of this vital road, and request that the work be completed as soon as possible.
Mr McLoughlin said: "Ansford Bridge is being repaired and strengthened to bring it back up to 40 tonne loading capacity, which means not only the safe passage of trains beneath but also provides a robust route over the railway without weight restrictions, which is essential for local business. I'm pleased that work has progressed on schedule and that the bridge will reopen very soon."
Mr Warburton said: "For the past 13 weeks, the closure of the A371 at Ansford Bridge in Castle Cary has had a significant effect on local businesses and has been disruptive to local residents.
"I want to make sure that the interests of local people are upheld and it's great news that the bridge will partially reopen on November 15. The maintenance and repair work to the bridge was vital, but we desperately need now to get things back up and running."