Bridge delayed again – now it’s next year

Evesham Journal: BRIDGE DELAY: Work has not progressed as fast as hoped. BRIDGE DELAY: Work has not progressed as fast as hoped.

THE saga of Evesham’s bridge closure took another turn for the worse this week as traders were told work won’t finish until at least the new year.

The latest delay to the Abbey Bridge rebuilding project, initially scheduled to finish last month, has been branded “bitterly disappointing and totally unacceptable” by council bosses.

The original deadline was extended until December 20 but this has now been put back, with contractors Hochtief blaming high river levels and strong winds.

“News of this further delay to the opening of the Abbey Bridge and viaduct from the contractor Hochtief is bitterly disappointing and totally unacceptable, bearing in mind that it has been just a couple of weeks since they gave December 20 as the reopening date,” said Councillor John Smith, Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for highways “At this stage, Hochtief has not confirmed a date for reopening the bridge but the county council is in urgent discussions with the contractor to get it open as soon as possible in the new year.

“Every day that goes by over the agreed closure period is having an impact on our town and its traders and we, the county council, will be challenging Hochtief to do all it can to keep these further delays to an absolute minimum.”

The news comes as The Journal teams up with Evesham Market Town Partnership, Hochtief, Wychavon District Council and Worcestershire County Council to give town traders much-needed support during the closure.

As well as our weekly Come in We’re Open campaign page and Meet Your Local Trader feature, providing coverage of a diverse array of businesses, over four weeks we are devoting four ‘wraparound’ pages to promoting Evesham as a vibrant shopping and visitor destination.

We are also providing free advertising in these special sections to give our town’s traders an extra boost during the festive period.

Hochtief said it regretted that that a number of “challenging issues” had caused major programme delays.

“The team, suppliers and sub-contractors have worked tirelessly to minimise the closure window required to carry out this crucial phase of the works,”

said the firm’s operations director Sean McCallion.

The firm said the problems included high river flows restricting marine movements, winds speeds “disabling crane usage” and unexpected conditions encountered during demolition of the old bridge.

Even before yesterday’s announcement, rumour of the delay was rife, but Tony Rowland, of the Vale of Evesham Commerce and Tourism Association, said: “We want people to continue supporting traders and look forward to working with the county council to mitigate the loss by businesses.”

Aly Adlkish, of Avonside Motors in Abbey Lane, meanwhile, said his business had suffered. He said: “We’ve lost all passing trade. It is only because of the support of our regular customers that we are still here.”

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