Newbury Road Bridge from the station.

Network Rail came to town today to run through the plans for the forthcoming road closures, required so they can upgrade bridges on the train line through Whitchurch.

John Holdway from the rail company, along with representatives from Basingstoke & Deane, HCC and the Town Council met with businesses and residents in the Gill Nethercott Centre.

With new standards for larger containers, many bridges are having to be rebuilt or adjusted to accommodate their increased height. The upgrading of the freight route from Southampton to the West Midlands via Basingstoke and Reading is now complete, but a diversionary route is required for when essential track maintenance takes place, and that is where Whitchurch comes in.
The aim is that the use of the larger containers will take 50,000 lorries off the roads each year.

Road closures and diversions
Work in this area will require several road closures, the most critical being the Newbury Road bridge as it is used by many large lorries serving the Ardglen Industrial Estate.



The work is presently planned between the following dates:

Newbury Road bridge, Whitchurch: late September – mid December 2011
Priory Lane bridge, Freefolk: late September – early December 2011
Watch Lane bridge, Freefolk: mid January – early April 2012

Lunn Footbridge (nr Wells-in-the-Field): mid September – mid November 2011
Apsley Footbridge: late September – late November 2011

Exact dates will be known shortly.
An interesting aside was that scheduling for the Newbury Road bridge has had to be adjusted due to the presence of a Dormouse habitat on the northern side! In addition the bridges also carry other essential services such as BT lines, and electric supplies all of which need to be accommodated in the works, so as to minimise disruption.

Further publicity
Once the exact dates are known, there will be a leaflet drop to affected areas and posters made available for display. This official town website and the Town Council site will also carry information.
However it is not planned to hold any further meetings.

Signage

Road sign planning is presently underway

Road diversions will be clearly signed with an emphasis on encouraging traffic to take alternative routes before they get too close to the area. Concerns on lorries using Bloswood Lane and blocking the low bridge will need to be addressed, as well as the possibility of the Tufton Warren/Firgo crossing on the A34 being a tempting turning point.

Pedestrians and cyclists
Whilst the roads will be totally closed to motor traffic, Network Rail will be making provision for foot and cycle traffic by the installation of temporary bridgways.

Train service disruption
Whilst weekday trains will run as normal there will be disruptions to services at weekends with replacement buses on Saturdays and Sundays. These are already listed in the online rail planners, at least until the end of October. In an odd quirk this improves the Sunday service, with buses once an hour instead of the usual two-hourly train service!

Many questions
There were many questions from the floor on issues ranging from winter gritting to lorry routes. Consideration will be given to upgrading the winter treatment programme for the Harroway and signage may need to be in metric to help the increasing number of overseas commercial drivers. Questions were also posed on the historic station canopy and whether there would be consultation on any works required, an issue which was taken forward.

Further information
Ian Robertson, Principle Planner for Transport Strategy at Basingstoke and Deane, is to act as the ‘mailbox’ for any local enquiries which he will then pass to the appropriate destination.
He can be emailed at: Ian.Robertson@basingstoke.gov.uk

This article is also posted on the BUSINESS NEWS pages.