Retailers face a worrying time in the build up to Christmas with the news that a main road into town over Grosvenor Bridge could be closed in the run up to the holiday period.
The closure of the bridge will mean traffic diversions and delays which are likely to deter shoppers trying to get to the town centre.
Festive shoppers are crucial for retailers looking to boost takings to see them through the quieter months of winter.
Work to start correcting the bridge’s faulty piers was supposed to begin on June 12 and last for six months. It is now scheduled to start at the end of August which means it could drag on into Christmas.
Kent County Council (KCC) – which has responsibility for the maintenance of roads – will undertake the repairs, but is reliant on Network Rail to ensure the railway track under the bridge is ready to allow work to go ahead.
However, the organisations have been locked in a blame game as to who is responsible for the hold up with a spokesman for Network Rail insisting the track operator was not ‘stalling’ and ‘weren’t aware’ they had caused any delays.
He added: “Network Rail has been working to reschedule the work on our high voltage cable to allow Kent County Council’s project to progress on Grosvenor Bridge.
“We were unable to do to the job earlier because work on the wider power network at Hastings meant that we needed the cable to be in use 24 hours a day.
“If we had cut the power, there would have been no trains running to Hastings.”
But a spokesman for KCC said the council were ‘surprised’ to hear that Network Rail are unaware of the delays they are causing, adding: “We have been liaising with Network Rail regarding these works and the associated timescales for over 12 months.
“We look forward to them completing the necessary work at their earliest convenience.”
Nicky Blanchard, Centre Manager of Royal Victoria Place and Chair of Royal Tunbridge Wells Together, said the group were working closely with KCC and all other parties to resolve the issue.
She said: “It is paramount that any works do not impact on the busy Christmas trading period for town centre businesses and therefore this should be a key consideration when planning the final schedule for these works.”