Mark's Musings

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Evesham Abbey Bridge – closure delayed

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Probably not unexpected, but this press release has just been sent out by Worcestershire County Council:

Temporary bridge to increase pace on vital Abbey Bridge replacement work delayed by severe weather

Flooding, snow and prolonged freezing conditions this winter has meant that some elements of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct replacement work have been delayed. The County Council’s contractor, Hochtief, have been working on re-programming the scheme, exploring the options to reduce the impact of the poor weather.

Hochtief have concluded that the erection of temporary pedestrian bridge will allow replacement work to take place on both sides of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct simultaneously reducing the project delays caused by severe weather this winter.

The new two-metre wide temporary bridge will be installed at the end of April on the east side by crane on Sunday, April 28, ensuring the commitment made to retain pedestrian and cyclist access into and out of the town throughout the scheme is kept. River clearing space of the temporary bridge will be the same as the existing bridge ensuring there will be no impact on planned summer river festivals or traffic.

A temporary closure of Waterside on April 28 – from the Abbey Bridge traffic lights to the hospital access – will be necessary whilst the pedestrian bridge is put in place.

Despite the harsh conditions parts of the project have been progressing but this decision will allow work on both sides of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct to take place at the same time – increasing the speed of construction whilst maintaining two-way traffic.

A 10-week full closure of the link will still be necessary and this is now planned to start in September.

Peter Blake, Worcestershire County Council’s Head of Integrated Transport, said: “The weather has certainly not been kind over this winter period. Flooding, heavy snow and pro-longed sub zero temperatures have caused a delay to parts of the scheduled work to replace the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct.

“Hochtief, our contractor, have for some time looking at what options we have to speed up work. Freezing conditions continuing to bite into April has meant opportunities to accommodate the delays have become more limited, which is why we’ve taken the decision to install this temporary pedestrian bridge allowing work to take place on both sides of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct. Everything is being done to keep any disruption to a minimum.”

“Clear communication is a key part to ensure the town remains open for business. We’re as committed as ever to this however we haven’t been in a position to confirm what additional steps would be taken to speed up work and exactly when the 10-week closure period could take place until now.

“Finally, I’d like to ask people to continue to support traders in Evesham whilst this essential replacement work, which is vital in securing the long-term future of the town, continues.”

To keep people up to date with what’s happening with the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct Replacement scheme a regularly updated dedicated web section can be found at www.worcestershire.gov.uk/abbeybridge, a newsletter (now published monthly) will continue to be sent out in the town, regular Twitter updates through the County Council’s account (@worcscc) will continue with the hashtag #abbeybridge and a new public information board situated in Abbey Road (near to the Leisure Centre access) is also available to view.

A package of traffic measures were put in place in February and will remain for the duration of the scheme. These include extensive signage on all major routes, including the A46, into Evesham extending as far back as Junction Six of the M5 to promote alternative routes for motorists, residents and visitors.

A £200,000 initiative to promote the town centre, its attractions and to support local traders and businesses is also continuing. The partnership project between Worcestershire County Council, Wychavon District Council and the Evesham Market Town Partnership, which began last summer, includes an 18-month campaign managed by a local company to showcase and communicate what Evesham has to offer for residents and visitors from further afield, a major discount scheme applying to car-parking charges during the closure period and business support/advice.

Obviously, this is bad news, and there’s no pretending otherwise. Pushing the closure back into September not only means that the overall timescale is longer but also that we’re going to miss the summer holiday window of opportunity when the schools are closed and traffic is much lighter. Closing the bridge in September will have significantly more impact than closing it in August. But I am pleased that the contractors have decided to mitigate the delays by putting in a temporary pedestrian bridge, even if this means a brief disruption to Waterside. You can see a basic layout of the temporary bridge in this PDF.

Incidentally, although the press release talks about the council’s bridge project website, this has yet to be updated at the time I’m writing this. But, even if it isn’t kept as up to date as it ought to be, I’ll try to make sure that I keep on top of any developments here on my own blog.