Bridge closure protest as traders suffer
BUSINESSES in Highbridge are suffering from a drop in profits after the Walrow Road railway bridge was closed. Owners of Maisey's Bakery in Market Street say they are one of several businesses losing hundreds of pounds every week because workers at the W
BUSINESSES in Highbridge are suffering from a drop in profits after the Walrow Road railway bridge was closed. Owners of Maisey's Bakery in Market Street say they are one of several businesses losing hundreds of pounds every week because workers at the Walrow Industrial Estate are no longer visiting.Owner and managing director Steve Willoughby said: "That bridge is our lifeline. There has got to be 2,000 people working in that estate and they come by in the morning for a bacon sandwich or pasty and come for their lunch as well. But now we have seen a dramatic drop in our customers. "Because of the closure, people are avoiding Highbridge like the plague. It is very annoying."The bridge was closed to cars and lorries on March 12 and only bicycles and pedestrians are now allowed to use it. It was closed after a structural survey revealed there are weaknesses in the bridge. The bridge had weight restrictions in place but Somerset County Council was aware that some lorries were abusing it and blamed this for the weakness. As a result, the bridge could be shut for up to four years, until Network Rail has carried out strengthening worksSteve has added his name, along with over 800 others, to a petition started at the beginning of April by Linda Davis, a Highbridge resident. She said: "We understand the bridge has to be closed for repairs but four years is ridiculous."Linda, of Worston Road, sent copies to Somerset County Council and Network Rail, but since then she has started to collect more signatures. Linda said: "I hope to collect a few more names and hand in another copy to Network Rail and Somerset County Council again." Wells MP David Heathcoat-Amory, who represents Burnham and Highbridge, met with residents and shop owners on Saturday to discuss the recent closure and sign Linda's petition. Mr Heathcoat-Amory said: "The closure is doing severe damage to the commercial health of the town. There will be no town to represent if this carries on. I cannot accept this and I will do everything possible to get this bridge reopened."Network Rail said it would not be possible for it to bring the necessary strengthening work forward and estimates the work will be completed by 2010/2011.