The county council has moved to quell fears that the continual delays to the repair of Grosvenor Bridge in Tunbridge Wells are costing taxpayers money after the scheduled start date looks set to cross over into a third year.
Kent County Council [KCC] has announced that it is seriously considering postponing the closure of one of the main routes into town until 2017, in order to avoid disrupting the busy Christmas trading period for shops and businesses. The original plan was for the work to start in ‘Autumn/Winter 2014’.
The latest delay has raised questions over whether the ongoing setbacks will cost taxpayers more money.
However, in response to questions from the Times a county hall spokesperson said the project is expected to cost ‘around £850,000’ with the price being agreed in May 2015 and that figure is not likely to change.
The county council insists that it’s ready to begin the works and that the project is being held up by Network Rail’s lack of action.
A statement released by the Joint Transportation Board said:
“Works were supposed to commence on June 16, but due to an overhead power cable which requires relocating the works are on hold.
“Network Rail has failed to supply KCC with a start date for the works. This issue has been taken up at the highest level between KCC and Network Rail.”
Network Rail originally attributed the delay in June to work on the wider power network at Hastings creating a temporary 24-hour reliance on the cable. However they said in early July that those works were over and the diversion of the bridge cable could begin in ‘early August’.
KCC said it has been ‘surprised’ by Network Rail’s refusal to accept responsibility for the delay.
With the council describing the works as ‘most urgent’ back in January 2015, it accepts there may come a point where the bridge becomes unsafe, although they are keen to reassure residents:
“The bridge is being regularly inspected and the road would be closed if considered unsafe.”
A firm date has still not been set for the start of the work, which will involve correcting the faulty piers of the bridge once Nertwork Rail has completed its part of the project. The work is likely to take between four and six months.