Anger as more bridge closures announced
Alasdair McGregor Anger erupted last night after highways bosses revealed there would be 37 further overnight closures of the bascule bridge in Lowestoft.Waveney MP Bob Blizzard branded the decision “outrageous” and pledged to seek an urgent meeting with the government's transport minister.
Anger erupted last night after highways bosses revealed there would be 37 further overnight closures of the bascule bridge in Lowestoft.
Waveney MP Bob Blizzard branded the decision “outrageous” and pledged to seek an urgent meeting with the government's transport minister.
The Highways Agency, which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport, has already come in for fierce criticism for long delays to the £2.3m maintenance project and yesterday issued an apology to the people and businesses of Lowestoft.
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Mr Blizzard said: “This really is outrageous and utterly appalling. It is so far wide of the original estimated completion date that it smacks of incompetence.
“These night-time closures are going to have an impact on the evening economy and this is unfair. I will be having an urgent meeting with the transport minister Tom Harris.”
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As revealed by the EDP, Mr Harris has already intervened in a bid to secure a quick resolution to the long-running saga, which has seen the Highways Agency miss its original deadline of before Christmas.
The agency has revealed that 19 closures will take place, from 8pm to 6am, between May 13 and the end of June. Work will be suspended during July and August to avoid the peak holiday period and will recommence in late September - nearly a year after the original project started.
Three 58-hour closures were carried out in the autumn and winter of last year before contractors ran into difficulties. Further daytime closures took place during the early part of this year, causing huge disruption across the Lowestoft area.
The problems arose when contractors discovered key parts of the bridge's hydraulic mechanisms were in a worse condition that originally thought. The agency said there were also a number of occasions where the installation of new equipment had not gone smoothly.
Mr Blizzard added that the problems with the bascule bridge gave further weight to his campaign for a third crossing to be built to carry traffic between north and south Lowestoft.
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that the temporary footbridge, which has allowed pedestrians and cyclists to cross Lake Lothing during previous closures, may have to be removed after the end of June when the lease with the landowner expires.
Roger Chenery, project manager for the Highways Agency, said: “I must stress that we are very sorry for the disruption caused to the residents and businesses of Lowestoft.
“However, there are overriding risks which must be resolved as soon as possible to ensure that the bridge operates reliably while it is in the transition period between old and new mechanical and electrical systems.”
t Visit www.highways.gov.uk for further details about the closures or call the Highways Agency information line on 08457 50 40 30.