Latest update on the Evesham Abbey Bridge and Viaduct
As a Vale of Evesham FSB Member you will be well aware of the weight limitations currently imposed on the New Bridge at Evesham. You will also, no doubt, know that the County Council's Highways Department is putting a bid together to apply for quite a sizeable fund to commission the building of a brand new bridge.
As Chairman for FSB Worcestershire I too am very interested in plans for the Vale and was so alarmed by some of the gossip and guesswork that I heard that I arranged to meet not only the County Council's officer who, subject to Department for Transport funding approval, will manage the bridge project, but also Councillor John Smith, OBE, and Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport and Councillor Adrian Hardman, the Leader of the Council.
On Wednesday 24th August I sat down with them and learned a great deal. Naturally, like you, I am concerned about the disruption that the bridge closure will bring about and I made that point very clearly, but I'm now not only convinced that the bridge project is certainly ‘do-able', but that it will bring enormous benefits to the town, both in the long and short term.
• The existing bridge is no longer structurally sound and is continually deteriorating.
• If the bridge is not replaced there will be an almost immediate further weight restriction to just three tonnes, that's less than a transit van, and then on to just 1 tonne, which is useless for both business and personal needs.
• The Department for Transport is handling bids from a wide range of applications from across the country - which means Worcestershire is competing for the funding with other project proposals.
• Worcestershire County Council is contributing £4 million to the total anticipated cost of £12 million.
• All applications will be considered in September, those which fail will not have an opportunity to bid for further funding until at least 2015, by which time we shall have gone through another general election and who knows what the economic state of the country will be by then!
• If the Evesham bridge project is approved the work will not commence for at least 18 months; which allows everyone time to make contingency plans.
• The work must be completed by 2015.
• The DfT has a total fund of £700 million and the anticipated bids from all concerned will total £2 billion – so Evesham has a 1 in 3 chance of being successful – not great odds, but as I said ‘do-able'.
• A temporary bridge to operate during the work will cost £4.5 million, all of which would have to be funded from within Worcestershire, as the DfT only fund permanent solutions, not temporary ones – this would mean that £4.5 million of cuts would have to be made elsewhere to fund something which is only designed to last for 10 – 12 months.
• If the £4.5 million for a temporary bridge could be found, there is still a huge issue around where it will be located as the Cheltenham Road/Pershore Road junction is critical to traffic flow and the Abbey Road viaduct is a wide span which any temporary structure would need to accommodate.
• A footbridge will be made available during the works, and this is likely to remain on completion of the new bridge.
The short term wins for Evesham:
Some will say that there cannot be any short term wins, but I beg to differ.
• The project will bring many employment opportunities to our young people. Construction and administration posts from the project could well launch a number of careers for our children and grandchildren who so desperately need work.
• The increased workforce in the town will need to meet their everyday needs: accommodation, food, drink, vehicle maintenance, leisure facilities and other essentials will, by and large, be bought locally, so your business could benefit.
• The project itself will become something of a tourist attraction and your business could well benefit from those who come along to see this major engineering project in full swing.
• During the period of construction all HGV through traffic will be required to use only the bypass, which will improve air quality and pedestrian safety in the heart of the town.
The long term wins:
• Evesham gets a first class 21st Century solution, designed to meet tomorrow's transport needs.
• Improved transport facilities can attract inward investment from national and international investors, which would help our local economy, skills' levels and employment prospects for generations to come.
• Evesham retains its market town status where the new bridge adds to the town's overall attractions.
• A new build will be built to cope with possible battering from future floods.
• Town centre businesses will find themselves in a stronger situation than they are at present as the new build will attract visitors as well as local consumers.
• Given the changing road user needs, including the overall increase in size of vehicles, the new bridge will accommodate 21st Century vehicles and will include safer pedestrian routes as part of the overall project, thus making the bridge a safer place for ourselves and our children.
The role you can play:
Given that a temporary crossing is just not viable, and that a total new build is the only solution: our glasses can either be half full, or half empty – I always prefer mine to be half full.
• To add your support to the bid write to Councillor John Smith at County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP.
• Write to your MP, Peter Luff or Harriett Baldwin, at House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA.
• The County and District Councils would like to know if you have any ideas around traffic management such as: parcels of land available to be used as temporary car parks, car sharing schemes, HGV facilities, delivery access and so on. Your local knowledge and connections could prove vital – write to Councillor John Smith, or if you prefer, why not drop me a line and I will make sure he gets it.
• Point people to the FSB's local website, we shall feature regular updates on progress.
• Most of all, please be positive – if the funding is approved this project WILL go ahead and if funding isn't forthcoming the bridge will close – permanently!
What would happen if we do nothing?
If the bridge is not rebuilt we shall suffer a series of weight restrictions and finally pedestrian access will be the only remaining option.
If we put our heads in the sand now our children and grandchildren will be forced, through our own inactivity, to deal with an even greater cost and inconvenience; Evesham will be seen as a ‘nowhere' and this ancient market town and religious site will become almost extinct.
You're an entrepreneur. Rise to the challenge – let's turn the bridge project into the biggest tourism money-spinner Evesham has ever seen!
I realise that there are some very real concerns about this whole issue, but I keep coming back to the deadline for funding - if the application fails to make the 9th September deadline where will Worcestershire find the money from to make any improvements to the bridge, let alone a new build?
If you would like to drop me a line please email email@example.com – I look forward to hearing from you.
Member since: 10th July 2012
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