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Bascule bridge - 37 new closures

PUBLISHED: 10:53 09 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:20 05 July 2010

LOWESTOFT'S bascule bridge is to be closed a staggering 37 times overnight.

That will take completion of its refurbishment project through to at least October.

LOWESTOFT'S bascule bridge is to be closed a staggering 37 times overnight.

That will take completion of its refurbishment project through to at least October.

The town's notorious bottleneck will be shut next Tuesday and Wednesday from 8pm to 6am, and this will be followed up with another 17 closures before the end of June.

The Highways Agency, which is managing the project, has decided to suspend work in July and August to try to keep disruption to businesses, tourists and residents to a minimum during the peak holiday season.

But, in a shock move, a further 18 closures will restart in late September, with pedestrians and cyclists at a risk of being prevented from accessing the town centre, after news that the temporary footbridge may be removed when the lease with the landowner is up at the end of June.

Alternative means of pedestrian accessing the town centre will be investigated for September onwards and full dates of all closures are set to be released once the dates have been agreed.

The announcement of further overnight closures has been expected for some weeks and originally the Highway's Agency predicted completion by the end of this month, although it appears that it may not be finished until nearly a year after it was supposed to be.

Yesterday the Agency admitted that the ongoing £2.3m maintenance scheme for upgrading the mechanical and electrical part of the bridge had proved more complex than expected.

Roger Chenery, project manager, said it was now clear that the operations to be carried out during the closures have taken more time than was anticipated at the start of the closure programme.

He said there had been a number of occasions where the fitting of new equipment had not gone smoothly and has therefore made the scheduling of additional closures necessary to progress the works.

Mr Chenery 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.

“I appreciate this is disappointing news but I can assure you of our continued efforts to complete the works in the best way possible with the residents and businesses of Lowestoft in mind.”

Mr Chenery said they will be working actively with the contractor to find ways to reduce the number of closures necessary to complete the works.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said yesterday he was absolutely appalled by the news and would be seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Minister Tom Harris, who he had previously asked to conduct an investigation into the handling of the project by the agency.

Mr Blizzard said the impact and upheaval of the project only accentuated the need for the Third River Crossing, which he believes would be looked at sympathetically by the Department of Transport, who are well aware of the current situation.

“This is now an issue that is echoing around the corridors of the department of transport, it's a throbbing issue, but now we've got to take an opportunity to advance a case for a third crossing and work together to take it to the department of transport through the Regional Financial Allocation (RFA) process,” said Mr Blizzard.

He urged Suffolk County Council to follow the standard process and include the measure on their local transport plan.

But last night Guy McGregor, the county's portfolio holder for roads and transport reiterated that it was not their responsibility to put forward the case for an existing government trunk road, but rather that of the central government.

Blob: Advanced signing and a signed diversion route will be in place during the overnight closures.

Visit www.highways.gov.uk for further details or telephone the Highways Agency Information Line on 08457 50 40 30.

Blob: What do you think of the proposed overnight closures? Email louisa.kennard@archant.co.uk

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