Bridge delays cause driver fury

LOWESTOFT'S bascule bridge was branded the curse of the town last night after another day of delays and commuter misery.

LOWESTOFT'S bascule bridge was branded the curse of the town last night after another day of delays and commuter misery.

Now contractors working on the bridge could be fined more than £10,000 for failing to open it on time.

And Waveney MP Bob Blizzard urged people caught up in the rush-hour chaos to seek compensation.

He said: “This is an outrage. To happen once is awful, but twice is totally unacceptable. They are treating the people of Lowestoft with contempt.

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“I feel that money should be given over to the town to compensate people. Lots of people have lost time and money over this.

“This bridge is the curse of Lowestoft, no doubt about it. In all this chaos the argument for a third crossing is starker and clearer than it has ever been.”

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Commuters have faced massive delays twice this week as overnight work ran over schedule, leaving the town centre at a stand still during rush hour, costing traders lucrative business and putting people off visiting the town.

Bosch Rexroth, which is carrying out the repairs that should have been finished last year, has said that a faulty locking mechanism caused yesterday's delay.

The bridge finally opened yesterday more than three hours after the scheduled time of 6am and on Wednesday the bridge opened just after 8.30am, only to shut again at about 9am for a commercial vessel to pass through.

Peter Smith, area manager for the Highways Agency, which is responsible for the bridge, said: “I am very unhappy and disappointed with the contractor's performance on both nights. Within the contract I do have the power to ask that they are penalised with overrunning. That clause says a figure of £2,000 per hour.”

Combining the delays, this would be about £11,000 and Mr Smith was also looking into the possibility of penalising Bosch Rexroth separately for the extent of the overrun to repairs. He added that although he had not seen a report, he was led to believe that Bosch Rexroth did not begin work on time on Wednesday night.

Linda Thornton, chief officer for the Lowestoft and Waveney Chamber of Commerce said: “It's just not good enough. We appreciated that the work needed to be done, but this is taking the proverbial.”

John Lock, who owns Five One Taxis, said: “Business is down by about 40% when the bridge closes and in general it is putting people off coming to Lowestoft. Traffic here is a disaster.”

The late openings were put down to problems replacing the bridge nose bolts, which lock the bridge safely in the down position.

Paul Bowden, UK manager for Bosch Rexroth, would not discuss the implication of any fines, but said their contract would cover any penalties they were deemed to be responsible for.

“From our point of view over the last two nights we have done a lot of work on the bridge but in certain situations it is impossible to foresee what we have to repair,” he said.

“The nose bolts are huge pieces of equipment to take off and replace. When they came off the bridge we had to rework and remodel them from scratch and it takes some time and our priority is to leave the bridge in a safe condition.”

Mr Bowden denied a late start on Wednesday, but admitted they had to stop work to let through a ship at 11pm. The final summer closures are due next Wednesday and Thursday between 8pm and 6am, with no more planned until the end of September.

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