Drivers face months of delays as the rail bridge finally closes

Susan Adam, a stalwart of the High Street said: "Tonbridge is a town on the up with new businesses coming into the area so we are looking forward to the New Year. We also sell artists' materials and with the new ArtSpring Gallery opening a few doors away we hope to see an even more creative Tonbridge in 2017.

MOTORISTS recovering from the New Year had another headache to contend with on their way to work yesterday (Tuesday) with the closure of Grosvenor Bridge – one of the main routes into town.

Following numerous delays the bridge was finally shut for structural repairs more than three years after the plans were first announced.

Residents and local businesses face a torrid period predicted to last until autumn this year, far longer the four months first envisaged.

There is also the potential for disruption to train services, as some of the work needs to take place on the railway line, although Kent County Council (KCC) plans to carry out most of this work at night, pledging to make ‘every effort’ to keep noise to a minimum.

Most of the traffic will be diverted along Upper Grosvenor Road, Grosvenor Road, Victoria Road, Camden Road and on to Quarry Road.

Work is being undertaken in order to replace the concrete piers supporting the bridge, which the county council say are now at the end of their serviceable life.

It is expected the project will cost approximately £850,000, and while the temporary supports will be able to handle pedestrian usage, they will not be strong enough for vehicles.

Delays to the start of the project were exacerbated by a breakdown in communication between KCC and Network Rail and during the summer descended into a blame game over who was responsible for the setbacks.

Network Rail had to divert a high-voltage cable to allow the work to commence, but during the summer claimed it could not do so because work on the wider power network at Hastings meant the cable was in use 24 hours a day.

The diversion of the cable was completed at the end of last year, however, there were then concerns over the negative impact the bridge closure could cause local businesses during the busy Christmas period, leading to another postponement.

KCC Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Matthew Balfour, said: “These works are vital to ensuring the structural integrity of the bridge and the safety of the road.

“Grosvenor Bridge is supported by two abutments and four piers – two concrete piers and two brick piers – and over the years the condition of the concrete piers has deteriorated and they have now reached the end of their serviceable life.

“To ensure that the bridge remains safe and able to accommodate the amount of traffic that uses it, the two concrete piers need to be replaced.

“I appreciate this will cause disruption and for that we have apologised.”

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