U-turn over bridge closure welcomed

Oxford Mail: Jonathan and Claire Hilsdon plan to re-open The Volunteer pub – next to the bridge on the A338 – as an American-style diner Buy this photo Jonathan and Claire Hilsdon plan to re-open The Volunteer pub – next to the bridge on the A338 – as an American-style diner

MOVES to close a bridge used by 13,000 commuters to and from Oxford each day have been dropped by rail bosses.

Network Rail wanted to shut the A338 Volunteer Bridge at Grove for six months so it can be rebuilt as part of plans to electrify rail lines.

But it was denied council permission and has now said it will build a new bridge off-site and install it.

It said the road will be closed for “a very short period” while it is put in place. No further details were available.

Jonathan and Claire Hilsdon, who are planning to re-open The Volunteer pub at the bridge as an American-style diner in October, said the news was “fantastic”.

They bought the pub last year and feared the effect the road works would have on their passing trade.

Mr Hilsdon said: “We are jumping for joy. That news has made my year. We were so worried. If they shut it for six months just as we were opening, I don’t know what would have happened.”

The Grove bridge is among 29 county bridges set to be rebuilt to make way for power lines for the Great Western Mainline between London Paddington and Cardiff.

The firm said the overhead wires will allow it to run larger, more efficient and more environmentally-friendly trains.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said: “Following the county council’s decision to turn down the request to close the A338 and divert traffic through villages for six months, I have continued discussions with Network Rail to ensure this project is not introduced, as I have said before, at the expense of grotesque inconvenience to my constituents.

“I therefore welcome Network Rail’s confirmation they have developed a proposal for the A338 Wantage Road bridge rebuild that will keep the road open, which will now only close for a very short period of time while a new bridge constructed off-site is installed.”

Network Rail spokeswoman Anne-Marie Batson said the firm had “developed a proposal for the A338 Wantage Road bridge rebuild that will keep the road open”.

She said that Network Rail bosses would meet with Oxfordshire County Council in the coming weeks to reveal the details of the new scheme.

She also said Challow Road bridge on the A417 and Steventon High Street bridge will not be closed at the same time as each other, to minimise disruption, and pedestrian access would be provided throughout work on the bridges.

For further information about the bridge works, visit networkrail.co.uk\greatwesternelectrification

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