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Questions being asked over bridge delays

PUBLISHED: 11:14 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 20:43 05 July 2010

The pressure on beleaguered traffic chiefs was increased further last night when a council leader said he wanted them to attend a meeting to explain the long delays to work on Lowestoft's bascule bridge.

The pressure on beleaguered traffic chiefs was increased further last night when a council leader said he wanted them to attend a meeting to explain the long delays to work on Lowestoft's bascule bridge.

Mark Bee, leader of Waveney District Council, is to ask the authority's scrutiny committee to call the Highways Agency to appear before councillors and answer questions about the controversial project.

He spoke out after Monday's mechanical breakdown of the bridge for seven hours led to further criticism being heaped on the Highways Agency over a £2.3m maintenance project that should have been completed before Christmas.

Mr Bee said: “I want to put some very serious questions to them. The public are being messed around by what I see, quite frankly, as incompetence in the way the Highways Agency is managing the project.”

However, the Highways Agency last night appeared to rule out appearing before a council committee, saying in a statement: “The Highways Agency holds a regular dialogue with Waveney District Council through the action planning meetings, which are attended by such bodies as the local councils, police, fire, ambulance, railways and Broads Authority. This is the appropriate forum for discussions between the Highways Agency and the council.”

Monday morning's unscheduled closure of the bridge sparked traffic chaos across Lowestoft and prompted calls for compensation to be paid to traders left out of pocket.

During the previous week, the bridge did not open to morning rush-hour on time following two planned overnight closures while earlier this year Waveney MP Bob Blizzard got transport minister Tom Harris to intervene over the long-running delays.

The Highways Agency has previously said the delays to the scheme have been caused by mechanical parts of the bridge being more worn than originally thought and have been forced to carry out several further closures during 2008.

Mr Bee said he would also ask the roads and transport scrutiny committee at Suffolk County Council to request the Highways Agency to attend a future

meeting.

Further closures of the bridge have now been suspended until September.

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