Friday, 14 September 2012

Swing Bridge Meeting

The Conference Suite at Forest Hills Hotel was full last night.  I chaired a meeting of representatives of local businesses with the senior technical officers from the Canals and Rivers Trust (ex British Waterways) and Cheshire West and Chester Council.  A representative from Cheshire Police was also present.

The meeting discussed the plans that are being drawn up for the repair and refurbishment of the swing bridge.

The meeting heard from George Ballinger - the senior engineer from the Canals and Rivers Trust (who own the bridge and will let the contract for its refurbishment) about the plans so far.   The work is planned to start in May or June 2013 and is expected to last some 9-10 months.

The anxieties of the business community were heard loud and clear.  There was a strong consensus in the room that however the road works were to be managed maintaining 2-way traffic over the Navigation was essential.  No one wanted to contemplate the disruption we all fear if the traffic flow is reduced to single lane controlled by traffic lights.

George Ballinger stated that work was proceeding on whether a second temporary bridge could span the Navigation next to the existing structure.  The thought was this second structure would cost around £600-£700k - but there would be cost savings on the main bridge refurbishment - as it could proceed more quickly (perhaps 11 weeks knocked off the project) and, of course the contractors could work on the structure unimpeded by traffic.   There would also be other benefits in this approach such as strengthening the sides of the Navigation on the Clifton Road side.

He indicated that the work to determine whether this was possible would be finalised in around 2 months time.  On being pressed whether such a scheme would be likely he replied that he thought there was a 70% chance that this could proceed.  Everyone in the room, me included will be having their fingers crossed for the next 2 months.

CWaC officers suggested that the delays to traffic associated with single lane operations could be of the order of 20 minutes.  I have to say that no-one in the room with the experience of a Friday afternoon when, under normal traffic conditions we can have grid lock from the Bear's Paw traffic lights to the M56 thought that was credible.  I have asked the officers to go back and look again at the data.

So we are to meet again in 2 months time when I hope we will learn whether a temporary bridge can be constructed.

This was a very interesting meeting - and one where many local businesses showed flair and a willingness to innovate.  

We also had other officers who could advise on what support for businesses could be available.

I will work with officers and my colleague Cllr Lynn Riley on working on publishing a series of FAQs on the bridge project.  If anyone has a question they'd like adding to that list please email me on andrew.dawson@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk and I'll do my best to have it included, whilst reserving the right to edit what is published!

Thanks again to Keiran at Forrest Hills for hosting the event for us.