NETWORK RAIL should not be allowed to shirk its responsibility over the closure of the A338 for a £1bn electrification project, says Wantage MP Ed Vaizey.

The Culture Minister spoke out ahead of a meeting with Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth tomorrow to discuss the problem.

Wantage and Grove Campaign Group (WAGCG) has urged residents to apply “as much pressure as possible” to get a temporary bridge installed by The Volunteer pub during the closure later this year.

In December, the Oxford Mail revealed that months of disruption would be caused to communities as part of a multi-million pound scheme affecting 29 rail bridges across the south of the county.

Network Rail said it hadn’t been able to draw up a definitive plan of road closures and timings, but said overall 19 roads may be closed or partially closed for up to four months.

Oxford Mail:

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey

This week, Mr Vaizey said the rail firm should “come to the table in order to find a solution” in relation to the closure of the A338 through Wantage.

He said: “The A338 is a crucial artery. I want the least inconvenience possible for my constituents who are going to work or picking up their kids from school. I think Network Rail has to come to the table in order to find a solution. They can’t shirk their responsibility.”

Some 13,000 journeys made on the A338 every day will need to be diverted by the county council when the road is closed.

The rail firm is not obliged to install any replacement when it closes the bridge later this year in order to raise it by 1.3 metres.

Wantage and Grove Campaign Group leader Julie Mabberley said: “This will affect us all and we need to put as much pressure as possible on the county council and Network Rail to try to get temporary bridges put in place for the six months that they are likely to be working on each bridge.”

Network Rail needs to rebuild the bridge, and 27 others in Oxfordshire, in order to make room for new, electric overhead wires underneath as part of its £1bn electrification project of the main line between London and Bristol.

The firm applied to Oxfordshire County Council for permission to close the A338 at the bridge for six months from February 10.

However, the firm has said it still cannot say when the road will be closed.

Network Rail spokeswoman Anne-Marie Batson said: “We would like to reassure everyone that the timings and details for this particular piece of work are yet to be decided for the A338.

“We realise that the A338 provides an important route for businesses, schools and homes and therefore we are committed to completing the work when it begins with as little disruption as possible.”

  • The public can email the county council at transport.development.control@oxford and Ed Vaizey at