RESIDENTS have called for work to be carried out on strengthening a rail bridge in Oxford before a new housing development is built.

The Wolvercote rail bridge is in such a bad state of repair that traffic moving across it has had to be restricted to a single lane.

Residents in Lower Wolvercote fear delivery lorries and dustcarts will be unable to reach them and bus services will be disrupted if the bridge is not strengthened soon, resulting in a lower weight limit being imposed.

Homes are set to be built on the site of the former paper mill in Lower Wolvercote, which Oxford City Council has earmarked for 200 houses.

Godstow Road resident Ken Bampton said: “The paper mill site is going to get redeveloped pretty soon so you will get more traffic going over the bridge.”

Lower weight restrictions would mean heavy vehicles would have to negotiate narrow roads through Wytham village and the narrow Thames bridge at Godstow to get to Wolvercote.

Ward city councillor Mike Gotch said: “Structurally the bridge has got a limited life and as things are at the moment it can take only a single lane of traffic rather than two.

“The bridge is going to get worse if it is not fixed within about five years and it will not be able to take dustbin lorries or delivery lorries.

“It is on Oxfordshire County Council’s schedule to be done in 2015/16 but the sooner the county council finds the money the better.”

The county council had set aside £3.6m to fund a replacement bridge but this funding was axed after a review of council spending.

Traffic across the bridge has been reduced to a single lane controlled with traffic lights in order to make sure the bridge can continue to take the strain.

Network Rail Sam Kelly said: “The bridge is divided into three parts – we carried out maintenance works to the west part of the bridge this summer.

“By April 2013, we will have completed work to maintain the other parts of the bridge – we have a legal requirement to maintain the bridge to a certain standard.

“Any decision on highway weight limits is made by the highways authority, in consultation with Network Rail.

“We currently have no plans to replace the bridge.”

Ms Kelly added that the next two stages of maintenance work would be carried out next month and in January 2013.

County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “There are no plans at present to strengthen the bridge.

“There is no weight restriction currently in place, and no plans at present to alter the current restrictions.”