Traffic management during Abbey Bridge Closure – a few reasons why it is what it is

With further delays to the re-opening of Abbey Bridge, one of the things that’s repeatedly cropping up on social media is the question of why the current traffic management system was chosen. In particular, people want to know why we have the crossover at the end of Oat Street, instead of reversing the flow in Oat Street and Swan Lane.

Map

The main reasons for rejecting the two options of either reverting to two-way traffic along Swan Lane or reversing the flow in Oat Street and Swan Lane are essentially practicality and safety.

Taking safety first, reversing the flow of a one-way street (or making it two-way) is something that is very strongly recommended against by the relevant guidelines as statistics show that doing so almost always results in a sharp rise in accidents. There are five significant traffic outlets onto Swan Lane (Conduit Hill, Rynal Street and three car parks) as well as several commercial sites accessed from the street. If traffic was flowing the other way, it only takes one forgetful motorist to fail to look in the “wrong” direction for there to be a collision. (The objection to this objection, so to speak, is that traffic will be nose-to-tail anyway, so it would be hard not to spot that it’s going the other way. But there are quieter times, and the main accident risk would be overnight when traffic is much lighter).

By contrast, there is only one road (Mill Bank) which exits onto Mill Street, one house and one business. The Mill Bank junction is closed for the duration of the works anyway (and safety is the main reason why), so that means a significantly lower accident risk by restricting the two-way flow to this section.

Using Swan Lane for eastbound traffic, either as a two-way road or by reversing the flow along with Oat Street, would also require temporary traffic lights on the High Street junctions as well as on Mill Road, as well as repainting (or coning off) new lanes on the High Street to handle the different flow patterns. Two way traffic along Swan Lane would require removing all on-street parking from it, which would have seriously detrimental effects on adjoining property owners.

Another issue is the bus station. This is on High Street between Swan Lane and Oat Street and, because of the way that the routes work, there are more buses using it in a southbound direction direction than northbound (and hence there are three southbound stands but only two northbound stands). All the buses need to use the diversion during the closure, and with the chosen option southbound buses simply turn left down Oat Street after leaving the bus stops. Northbound buses turn left out of Swan lane and loop round by using Merstow Green roundabout, leaving them on the right side of the street for the stops. That’s a slight diversion, but it’s less convoluted than making southbound buses loop round and then turn back on themselves.

Reversing the flow in Oat Street would also need traffic lights at the High Street end. And that would be additional to the existing lights at the Swan Lane junction, as they would still be needed to handle traffic to/from Avon Street. So we’d end up with two sets of lights in close proximity, close enough for the queues to interfere with each other. There’s also the problem of access to the semi-pedestrianised service road which runs along High Street in front of the shops, parallel to the main road. At the moment, to get to that, traffic turns into Oat Street from the High Street and then right into the service road. If service traffic had to do so against oncoming traffic from Oat Street, it would mean more complex traffic management and traffic light patterns.

Another problem with reversing the flow in Oat Street is that it’s only one lane wide. At the monent, traffic exiting Swan Lane into the High Street splits into two lanes, one turning left and the other turning right. That means that two vehicles at a time can exit into High Street. And, even during the work, there’s still a significant amount of left turning traffic. If westbound traffic was going via Oat Street, then all the traffic would need to queue in a single lane irrespective of which way it was turnning and only one vehicle at a time would be able to exit into High Street. That means that to get the same throughput, the lights would have to be green in that direction twice as long as they currently are. It also means that the queue, being half as wide, would be twice as long for the same number of queueing vehicles. So it would be far more likely to tail back into Mill Street, which still has to be one-way because it isn’t wide enough to handle two-way traffic round the bend at the bottom of the hill. So the tailback from Oat Street would get in the way of traffic from Swan lane wanting to go down the hill towards the bridge.

On a side note, it doesn’t help to say that Mill Street used to carry two way traffic as normal, and therefore could again without traffic lights. Firstly, the fact that it didn’t do it very well was one of the reasons why it was changed in the first place, and, in any case, the road has been deliberately narrowed since then. It would need rebuilding to allow two-way traffic around that corner again.

Using Oat Street for eastbound traffic makes it much simpler, as none of the existing lanes and lights on High Street need to change – all that’s necessary is a sign to direct through traffic down Oat Street instead of continuing along High Street to Abbey Road. And simplicity is itself a big factor; it’s easy for those of us who know Evesham to think of alternative routes but whatever is chosen has to somehow be communicated to visitors as unambiguously as possible – and that means not only putting up temporary signs saying what to do, but also removing or covering any existing signs and road markings which conflict with the temporary route. The more complex the changes, the higher the probability of someone getting it wrong – which takes us back to the safety issue, because mistakes lead to accidents.

Greater complexity also comes at greater cost, and, given that the funding from central government is solely for the construction of the new bridge itself, the costs of managing the traffic during the closure will come out of our council tax contributions. So keeping things cheap and simple is a valid goal in itself.

Individually, none of these reasons may be compelling in thmselves (although the safety aspect is probably the most important, and the chosen solution is one which was favoured by the emergency services). But, taken together, they make a very strong argument against any solution which involves reversing the flow in Oat Street or using two-way traffic in Swan Lane. Which is why those options were considered, but rejected.

Incidentally, one of the other options which was considered, but rejected, was to make no changes at all and require all outbound traffic to go round the by-pass. I think, on balance, that what we’ve got is better than that!

While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth explaining a bit more about how the traffic management is working at the moment. Far from being paid to stand around doing nothing, as some people have suggested, the “orangemen” are actually key to the operation of the one-way system. Rather than operate the lights on a simple timer or close-range vehicle detector (which is what’s normally done at roadworks), the orangemen are manually controlling the lights in order to balance out the flow. All of them are in radio contact with each other, and the two operators of the lights themselves take instructions from the “spotters” about the lengths of the queues at each end, and then switch the lights in order to always give the side with most traffic queueing priority. Where they can, if there are no large vehicles in the queue, they’ll also allow short bursts of two-way traffic along Mill Street to maximise capacity. The lights are only on a timer overnight when traffic is lighter.

Information doesn’t just want to be free. It needs to be free.

Floods have been in the news a lot recently. We got away with it here in Evesham, where the highest level reached by the Avon just managed to creep over lower sections of Waterside but without closing the road or threatening any buildings. It was a different story elsewhere, of course.
Workman Gardens
If we’d had another flood like the ones last year (and I don’t count the river covering Workman Gardens or Crown Meadow as a flood – these are flood plains, deliberately intended to act as a reservoir for excess water when necessary. Which is why we don’t build anything on them at ground level) then it would, at least, have given people something else to talk about other than the ongoing saga of Abbey Bridge reconstruction. Having originally been scheduled for ten weeks summer, the closure of the bridge was first put back to autumn and then, once closed, extended twice so that we still don’t know when it’s going to be open to traffic again.

Going back to the flooding elsewhere, there have been various media reports today (28 December) about the Prime Minister’s visit to a flood-affected area. This, from the Guardian, is fairly typical. The focus of the reports is the confrontation between David Cameron and an angry villager who felt let down by their own local authority and the Environment Agency. As the Guardian puts it:

She complained that there had been only a couple of hours’ notice of the flood and no chance to get possessions to safety before the converging rivers of the Beult, Tiese and Medway burst their banks.

Now, up to a point, that’s not an entirely valid complaint. The possibility of flooding would have been known well before that, and anyone can look it up on the Environment Agency website if they’re concerned. But I’ll come back to that.

Meanwhile, back here in Evesham, tempers have been fraying over the bridge. Rumours have been flying around the town as to the real reason for the continued delays, ranging from accidental damage to the new concrete to the contractor, Hotchief, going bust. The Evesham Journal posed a set of questions to Hotchief and Worcestershire County Council regarding the delay. Hotchief refused to add anything to a previously issued press release, while WCC referred the Journal back to Hotchief for most of the questions.

The link between the two stories is information. Or, rather, the lack of it. The villagers of Yalding didn’t get warned about flooding until it was almost on them. The townspeople of Evesham still haven’t got satisfactory answers to entirely reasonable questions about what’s happening to our bridge.

Now, it is true that the flood warning data is available on the Environment Agency (EA) website. So maybe it’s not entirely fair to say that the villagers of Yalding didn’t get a good enough warning, when they could have looked it up themselves. But I don’t think that’s a convincing response. Most people don’t necessarily know about the EA website, and even if they do know about it, it isn’t one of the most user-friendly sites out there.

What would have been far more helpful is if the local media could have published the warnings themselves, instead of referring readers back to the EA for them. For example, this page from the Journal would have been more helpful if it had included a detailed description of the relevant warnings instead of just having a fairly obscure link to a search page at the EA.

Unfortunately, they can’t do that, because the EA won’t let them. Or, rather, won’t let them unless they pay for the right to do so. And the amount that the EA charges for flood alert data is a pretty hefty fee. That means that not only media outlets, but also third party website operators are unlikely to be prepared to pay it unless they think they can recoup that in some way.

I’ve previously had a run-in with the EA over my own River Levels website, which I created precisely because I was dissatisfied with the lack of user-friendliness of the EA’s own site. Despite being asked by the EA to close the site, I’ve made the decision to keep it open, at least for now, as I think I have a strong argument for being able to use the information presented on it either at no cost or at minimal cost. I would very much like to be able to do the same for flood data. But that’s an entirely different kettle of fish; the licensing costs of flood data are vastly more expensive than simple level data and the EA is far more protective about the former than the latter.

Back to Abbey Bridge. We’ve been promised more information “in the New Year”, but what we’re going to get is still anyone’s guess. The rumours that Hotchief UK has gone bust are false, but nobody from either WCC or Hotchief seems prepared to actually say so. I suspect that the rumour about damage to the new construction is false too, but without inside information I can’t be certain about that. I do know (because I’ve looked it up extensively on Google) that this type of work always takes longer in winter than summer because cold weather significantly extends the setting time of concrete. That’s probably the main reason why a ten week closure period would probably have been enough in summer, as originally scheduled, but wasn’t long enough in autumn and winter. But it would be nice to have had this confirmed by someone with access to real information.

In Yalding, David Cameron…

…pledged to make flood protection an increasing priority of the government and commiserated with villagers that the floods were “completely awful”.

That’s a fair enough response on the hoof. But when he gets back to Number 10, I’d suggest that the best thing he could do is to address the institutional tendency of government, and government agencies, towards secrecy. Flood defences are a fine idea, but they cost money, take time to construct and don’t necessarily solve the problem. But information can be made free now. More widely disseminated warnings wouldn’t have stopped the water, but it may have given the villagers of Yalding more time to prepare. And making the data open gives people the opportunity to improve the way it’s presented. Given access to the data, I could make a much better flood warning website than the EA. So could lots of people.

Equally, here in Evesham, we need some straight answers. It is true that we’re not suffering anything like as badly as the towns and villages which have been flooded. But the issue is the same: the organisations who have the information are far too reluctant to share it.

I’ve been reluctant to criticise Worcestershire County Council, or Hotchief, up to now because I do realise that the bridge reconstruction is a huge and complex task and there are often are no simple answers to some questions. I also recognise that the individuals who could answer the questions are not necessarily free to do so because they are bound by corporate and council policies. But the longer this goes on, the more obvious it becomes that we need a sea change in attitudes to openness, at all levels of government. It is no longer acceptable that a government agency should seek to restrict access to safety-critical data by imposing a fee for republication. It is no longer acceptable that a local authority should refuse to answer questions about the actions of its own contractors. The people of Yalding should be asking why their local media couldn’t carry detailed flood warnings. The people of Evesham should be pointing out that the Abbey Bridge buck stops at county hall. And all levels of government should listen to them.

Evesham Abbey Bridge – closure delayed

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.

Evesham bridge closure – traffic options

I blogged a few days ago about the alternative designs for the new Evesham Abbey Bridge that weren’t adopted. But the FOI request which obtained that information also provided the options considered for traffic management while the bridge is closed. Two options were put forward for public consultation, and we should know fairly soon which has actually been chosen, but it’s interesting to see which others were rejected at an earlier stage. These are the five options considered:

1. Do nothing.

The first option is to make no alternative arrangements at all. Instead, all outbound traffic from the town centre would need to go north along Green Hill and round the bypass.

This is clearly the least desirable option from the point of view of residents and businesses, and it also has significant problems from a public transport perspective as well. The only real benefits of this choice are simplicity and cost. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it was discarded – probably the only reason it’s in the list at all is because doing nothing is the option that all the others need to be compared against.

All the other options allow for outbound traffic to reach Workman Bridge from the High Street, something which isn’t currently possible.

2. Two-way traffic along Swan Lane and Mill Street

This is how things used to be, before these two streets were made one-way, and, judging from the letters page of the local press, it’s how a lot of people think it still should be. For a temporary route, it has the benefits of being relatively simple to implement.

The briefing paper supplied to Worcestershire Highways, though, identified a number of problems with it. The most significant is that Swan Lane is narrow, and doesn’t have space for large vehicles (such as buses) to pass each other. That’s the very reason why it was made one-way in the first place, and even a temporary reinstatement of two-way traffic would mean a return to exactly the same problems. Given that the temporary route will have to handle all the bus traffic which currently goes over the Abbey Bridge, a road which is too narrow for two buses to pass in opposite directions is a long way short of ideal.

Another issue is that the High Street bus stops are to the south of Swan Lane. So if this option was chosen, then either southbound buses would need to do a U-turn in order to get out of town, or the bus stops themselves would need to be relocated. Neither of those is particularly appealing.

3. Re-open Bridge Street to vehicular traffic eastbound (downhill).

This is one of the two options which went forward to the public consultation, and from a traffic perspective it’s probably the simplest. It doesn’t involve two-way traffic along any street which is currently one-way, it avoids the bus stop problem of option 2 and it only creates a single pinch point (at the bottom of Bridge Street where it meets Mill Street) which would require temporary traffic lights.

The big problem, though, is that Bridge Street is currently pedestrianised and re-opening it to full time traffic would require work to the street. It would also almost certainly result in damage to the block paving, which would need to be reinstated after the temporary diversion is complete. At the moment, the small amount of traffic – mainly deliveries and other access – which is permitted on Bridge Street is westbound (uphill), so that would change too. And allowing full time traffic on Bridge Street would make it much less pleasant for pedestrians, and would almost certainly have a negative effect on the Bridge Street shops. Safety, too, is an issue, and an increase in accidents involving vulnerable road users is considered likely.

4. Two way traffic along Mill Street, using Oat Street as the eastbound route from the High Street.

This is the other option which made it to the public consultation. It has the advantage that two-way traffic will only be along Mill Street, which is wide enough to take it, rather than Swan Lane where it would be a problem. It also doesn’t have the bus stop problem of option 2, and keeps Bridge Street clear of traffic.

The main disadvantages are that it creates a number of awkward pinch points, including the junction between Mill Street and Oat Street as well as the bottom of Bridge Street (which would still need temporary traffic lights to manage traffic to/from the Riverside Centre car park and service bays). Oat Street is also very narrow, and yet forms an important pedestrian link between the High Street and Oat Street car park. So there are safety issues here as well, and the report suggests that a safety audit would be necessary before this option could be chosen.

5. As option 4, but reverse the flow in Swan Lane and Oat Street so that Swan Lane is one-way eastbound and Oat Street one-way westbound (that is, the opposite direction to the present situation).

This has the advantage of easing traffic flow as it removes the awkward crossover at the Oat Street/Mill Street junction. And it retains the main advantages of option 4 in that it avoids two-way traffic along narrow streets while not affecting Bridge Street.

However, it would be considerably more complex (and therefore more costly) to implement, as it would require major changes to the junctions of both Swan lane and Oat Street with High Street. It also has the same problem with the bus stop locations as option 2. Which, I presume, is why it didn’t get through to the final consideration.

Which to choose?

The Town Council, when asked for our opinion, backed option 4 (Oat Street/Mill Street). I voted for that, and I haven’t seen anything from the other options that would make me change my mind. I acknowledge, though, that no solution is ideal, and I can see the benefits of the Bridge Street option.

In reality, whatever route is chosen is likely to be very congested for the duration of the bridge works, and for a lot of people it’s still going to be quicker to go the long way round via the bypass. We’ve had a foretaste of that this week with the preparatory work on the water main where Abbey Bridge meets Waterside and Pershore Road – some people have complained of being stuck in traffic for 30 minutes or more, which is longer than it took me to get from High Street to Elm Road via Green Hill and the bypass (yes, I’m sad enough to have timed it), so in practice I expect I’ll mostly be going the long way round while the bridge is closed irrespective of which temporary route is chosen.

Long term

This does, though, throw up the question of how best to manage traffic in the long term. Even now, when there aren’t any roadworks, southbound traffic over the Abbey Bridge queues all the way back to the town centre. That in turn has a knock-on effect of encouraging rat-running from Bewdley Street through the Old Brewery car park and Merstow Green, something which is only going to get worse with the construction of new houses on the former nursery site off ALbert Road. And the rebuilding of the bridge will, paradoxically, exacerbate this as HGV traffic from the town centre – currently banned from the bridge because it can’t take the strain – will then be allowed to head south instead of being forced north via Green Hill. The new bridge will carry more traffic than the current bridge does, and that can only make the congestion worse.

It seems to me, therefore, that the county council has to look for a way to allow outbound traffic to use Workman Bridge on a permanent basis, rather than merely during the Abbey Bridge closure.

I can understand why the original eastbound route, via Swan Lane, was closed, and I’m not calling for it to be reinstated. Older residents of the town may well remember when they used to go that way in their Morris Minors and hark nostalgically back to those times, but the increase in traffic volumes as well as average vehicle size means it’s no longer an option.

However, I’m attracted to the idea of leaving Mill Street two-way and continuing to allow eastbound traffic to Workman Bridge via Oat Street after Abbey Bridge is reopened. To be sure, this is going to be heavily congested during the closure (assuming it’s the chosen option), but once Abbey Bridge is open again then the amount of traffic wanting to go out via Workman Bridge will be relatively low by comparison. Abbey Bridge is the obvious route from the town centre to Hampton as well as much of the residential areas accessed from Cheltenham Road, so Workman Bridge will always be a less popular choice. But making it a possible choice will not only benefit those for whom it is the most sensible route (eg, Bengeworth residents) but also Abbey Bridge users who won’t have to put up with Bengeworth-bound traffic sharing the route. And minimising congestion and unnecessarily convoluted journeys also reduces pollution and CO2 emissions, which is an important goal in itself.

What do you think? Which short-term option is the best choice while Abbey Bridge is closed? And do you want to see a route from High Street to Workman Bridge a permanent feature of Evesham’s road system?

Evesham Abbey Bridge: What might have been (and why not)

Update: I’ve edited this article as I originally got the images of the bridges incorrectly assigned to their respective designers.

As anyone who lives in or near Evesham will know, the Abbey Bridge is going to be replaced over the course of the next year or so because the current one is gradually falling to pieces. The chosen design was revealed a couple of months ago, along with a consultation on plans to manage traffic during the period when the bridge is closed. But until now, we didn’t know what the other options were that weren’t chosen.

I’m a regular user of the WhatDoTheyKnow website, and I have it set to automatically email me whenever someone uses it to put in an FOI request to one of our local authorities. So when I got an email telling me that there was a request related to the bridge design, I made a point of keeping an eye on it. The request was recently answered. So we can now see which other designs were proposed for the bridge, and, possibly more interestingly, why the decision was made to choose the one which will be built.

There were five bidders for the bridge, and they each produced their own design. Interestingly, all the designs were very similar – I was rather disappointed that nobody had come up with something particularly left field, but, on the other hand, the fact that they do all look much the same means that there’s nothing controversial about the one which got the nod. Here are the five bridges:

Dawnus
BAM Nuttall
Alun Griffiths
Balfour Beatty
Hochtief

The last image is the one which was chosen, as you’ll recognise if you’ve seen the media reports.

As you can see, they’re all essentially a simple arch design similar to the existing bridge. The Balfour Beatty design is probably the most distinctive, having the arches seemingly at an angle rather than upright, while the Alun Griffiths design seems to go for lighter and more elegant arches than the others. But there really isn’t a lot in it. The panel convened to assess the aesthetic appeal of the different options went for the Balfour Beatty design.

So, why was the Hochtief design chosen?

Well, in the end the answer was simple – it was the cheapest. In fact, it was the cheapest by a big margin – the next cheapest, the Dawnus proposal, was nearly twice as much. It’s also the one which has the lowest ongoing maintenance cost, and on the panel evaluation – which covered things like risk assessment, quality control, etc – it scored 7 out of 10 with only Alun Griffiths doing better on 8 (and only Balfour Beatty doing worse on 6). So as decisions go, it was probably pretty much a no-brainer for the council’s Highways department – it would have taken a very strong justification indeed to have selected one of the other bidders.

The one aspect that may possibly prove controversial, though, is the closure period. The winning Hochtief bid requires a full closure of the bridge for 48 days, which is pretty close to the 42 days in the Balfour Beatty proposal. The BAM Nuttall bid would have seen the bridge closed for a whopping 203 days, which is clearly unacceptable – it’s a good job that they were expensive enough that that wasn’t a viable option anyway! But both the Alun Griffiths and Dawnus bids included a closure period of precisely zero days. That is, they were planning to keep traffic flowing, at least in restricted form, throughout the entire construction period.

How they planned to do that I don’t know, since I haven’t seen the full tender documents. My guess is that they either planned to use a temporary structure, or to build the new bridge deck underneath or above the existing deck and then remove the old one once the new one was in place. But, however they were planning to do it, I’m sure some Evesham residents will argue that, even if the cost was higher, it was worth doing.

My own opinion, for what it’s worth, is that it probably wouldn’t have been justified anyway. It’s quite possible that a quid pro quo of a non-existent total closure is a much longer period of partial closure with temporary traffic lights and reduced width. Imagine nearly a year of, say, just one lane open across the bridge with four-way traffic lights at the Cheltenham Road junction and queues backing up up to the bypass. I’d rather keep the bridge itself, and the junction, fully open for as long as possible and do the main replacement in one fell swoop with a short period of total closure.

Anyway, I like the Hochtief design. It has the important advantage, for me, that the pedestrian walkways are outside the arches instead of inside them as on the Balfour Beatty and Dawnus designs (as well as the current bridge). Putting the walkways outside the arches will make it a much more pleasant bridge to cross on foot, as there will be a physical barrier between you and the traffic – something which is particularly important if you have small children with you. And, whatever we’re getting, I’m glad we’re getting a new bridge. The alternative would have been almost unthinkable.