Traffic lights will stay on bridge for months

Roadworks at South Newington near The Duck on the Pond pub and the bridge. NNL-150121-115105009
Roadworks at South Newington near The Duck on the Pond pub and the bridge. NNL-150121-115105009

Temporary traffic lights on the major road through South Newington will continue to cause delays to traffic for months to come.

The control lights were installed last September when Oxfordshire highways department realised the bridge had become dangerously unstable.

At the time they assured South Newington Parish Council the work necessary to reinforce the bridge would be done by the end of December.

Now county spokesmen say the work will be carried out ‘in the summer’ partly because of delays caused by choosing the private contractor to carry out the work.

An email from Robert Calver to the parish council said: “Some issues have arisen with regard to the chosen method of procurement of the works which is likely to delay the implementation until the spring.”

In a statement this week the media office said: “Emergency repairs would have had to be complete by December. However emergency repairs ended up not being required because the council installed lights, thus protecting weak parts of the bridge.

“To complete full repair needs Listed Building consent and Environment Agency permissions. Our aim is to have work completed by late summer subject to those being granted.”

The lights are outside the Duck in the Pond pub, causing queues stretching up and around the bends of the village, and at the foot of the hill from Bloxham.

The county has applied to Cherwell District Council for consent for the work, necessary under rules protecting listed buildings, as the 18th century bridge is a listed structure.

In its supporting statement engineers said: “The bridge is suffering from structural overload and emergency road narrowing measures have been put in place to reduce the risk of localised collapse.

“The bridge has recently had some stonework repairs and repointing to the abutments, piers, arch barrels and western headwall. This work was required before strengthening could take place but unfortunately within itself does not significantly increase the load-carrying capacity of the structure.”

Greg Atkins of SNARL – the South Newington A361 Lobby – said the traffic lights have reduced the number of HGVs going through the village.

He said: “There’s a general feeling people like the lights because it has reduced the number of HGVs. The number that divert through the village has gone down by 50 per cent.

“Some still come through, especially when roads like the A34 are blocked. Oxfordshire County Council is loathe to put a weight restriction on the bridge.

“They could make the traffic lights permanent or put on a weight restriction, probably of under five tonnes, but companies with distribution centres in the county, which they pay business rates for, put pressure on the county council to leave this route open.”

A county statement said weight restrictions had been ruled out because the A361 is a ‘major transport corridor’ with no suitable alternatives nearby.

South Newington bridge is Grade II listed and is considered to be of special architectural and historic interest.

The central arch of the bridge has distorted and become flattened and cracking has reduced its safe load-carrying capacity to three tonnes maximum, gross weight – equivalent to a fire engine.

There is a further danger to the integrity of the bridge if lorries run over the edges of the remaining carriageway.