VILLAGERS in Wolvercote fear they will be cut off from Oxford, because an ageing bridge can no longer take the strain of heavy traffic.

The Goose Green bridge in Godstow Road spans the Oxford to Banbury railway line and is the main route into Lower Wolvercote.

But engineers have warned a three-tonne weight limit could be imposed, due to the deteriorating condition of the structure, preventing delivery lorries, buses and dustcarts getting to the village, except by the winding route via Wytham, which is unsuitable for lorries.

The bridge was due to be rebuilt in a joint project between its owner, Network Rail, and Oxfordshire County Council.

But the council has decided it cannot afford to put £3.6m towards the work, about 90 per cent of the estimated cost, due to its efforts to cut £119m of spending over the next four years.

Villagers fear if a weight limit is imposed it will “kill” the village.

Katie Keeble, who runs the Post Box shop, said: “We couldn’t survive without our deliveries and most are made by vehicles weighing more than three tonnes.

“We would be completely cut off. It would kill the village.”

James Knox, the landlord of the Red Lion pub in Lower Wolvercote, said a three-tonne weight limit could stop his beer deliveries.

He added: “It would grind us to a halt really. The county council should stick to the original plan.”

The planned new bridge would have had a 44-tonne weight limit, allowing large lorries to cross it.

A report by the county’s bridge engineer Peter Brown last November said a three-tonne weight limit was “probable” in the short term, if rebuilding was not carried out.

He added: “Network Rail would eventually strengthen the bridge up to their liability, leaving an 18-tonne restriction on the bridge, preventing the majority of HGVs gaining access to Lower Wolvercote.”

Any decision to impose a weight limit would be taken jointly by the council and Network Rail.

Summertown and Wolvercote county councillor Jean Fooks said council funding must be reinstated.

She said: “People don’t seem to have investigated the full consequences of a lower weight limit.”

Council spokesman Owen Morton said: “We will be discussing this matter with Network Rail in the near future to decide what if any action may need to be taken.

“Whatever the outcome, we will want to ensure continued access for bus services, emergency vehicles and other vehicles which currently use the bridge.”

Network Rail spokesman Kate Snowden confirmed the bridge would not be rebuilt without the council funding.

However, she said the company would carry out strengthening work on the structure within the next year.