Welcome break to bridge work

TRADERS, shoppers and residents were poised to breathe a sigh of relief this morning after the final scheduled closure last night of Lowestoft's bascule bridge.

TRADERS, shoppers and residents were poised to breathe a sigh of relief this morning after the final scheduled closure last night of Lowestoft's bascule bridge.

Project managers the Highways Agency has promised no more interference until the end of September, but after two consecutive overruns on night work last week and an unscheduled seven hour closure on Monday, people are not expected to be holding their breath.

The Journal has been inundated with letters this week questioning the competence of the agency and contractors Bosch Rexroth.

Judith Steels, of Lakeside Rise, Blundeston, wrote a poem entitled the Demon Bridge, while Paul Hocking, of Anchor Way, Carlton Colville, questioned why no one seems to listen to the people of the town and why possible solutions were not provided or suggested.

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Stevie Sheppard, of High Street, Lowestoft, said the agency had failed in duties drawn up in the Highways Act of 1980.

But Reg Coleman took a different stance saying it was very unfair to heap the blame on those struggling to repair the bridge under difficult working conditions.

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Last week, the Highways Agency and Bosch Rexroth came under fire after the bridge failed to re-open on time following two scheduled overnight closures, with an extra five-and-a-half hours of work carried out.

A further outrage occurred on Monday morning after it was raised at 5.15am to let a ship through and did not re-open until after noon.

Long traffic queues were reported across the town, particularly in Oulton Broad, and the problems were exacerbated because signs warning motorists of the closure were not fully in place until after 9am.

An investigation has been launched by the agency into the breakdown, which was caused when a large bolt failed to properly secure the bridge.

Ironically it appears that the breakdown occurred on a section of the bridge that was repaired and replaced last week during the overrun of work, which Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said will give traders further ammunition on their claims for compensation.

Business leaders have now joined together over the possibility of taking action against the agency with Mr Blizzard declaring that Lowestoft was “hanging by a thread”.

He said: “They put in a new part last week and something went wrong with that. The question I want to ask is was that part fitted correctly? If it is found out it wasn't fitted correctly then this massively increases the scope for claims for damages from aggrieved businesses. My message to people is to prepare claims for compensation.”

Peter Smith, area manager for the agency said he had never known compensation being paid out for essential maintenance and he didn't think there was ground for it in this case.

The bridge was expected to be subject to its last overnight closure last night and people were keeping their fingers crossed that it would open on time at 6am this morning.

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