A public meeting gave fed-up Corby Old Village residents and business owners the chance to air their views over the extended closure of the Cottingham Road bridge.
Local people came face-to-face with Network Rail bosses for the first time since the bridge was closed at the meeting at the White Hart pub yesterday (Friday). It was organised by prospective Parliamentary candidate Beth Miller who has been championing the cause of Old Village stakeholders since the bridge closed in January.
They were told by Wendy Bell, who is managing the Corby to London project for Network Rail, that the unexpected delays were down to some vital components being manufactured incorrectly in Ireland as well as an unstable footpath needing reinforcement.
The scheme, which has seen the Cottingham Road Overline GSM1/17 bridge raised to allow the electrification of the railway line which runs underneath it, was due to end in mid-August. Last week local people were told that the latest delay would see the bridge reopen on October 19.
But yesterday, Network Rail confirmed that the bridge will not fully reopen on October 19. Traffic will be allowed over it, but there will only be only one lane managed by temporary traffic lights.
Residents said that could cause even more if a headache - with traffic jams backed-up through the Old Village. So they suggested leaving the bridge fully closed until November 26 so that the work will be totally finished before the bridge reopens.
That plan will now be considered by Network Rail bosses who have promised to consider the views of residents before making a decision.
Wendy Bell said: “Traffic will be able to get over the bridge but there’ll be traffic management to allow BT to do their work and there’ll be ongoing footpath works.”
Gaye Hood-Henry, who owns Much Loved in the Old Village said: “We need full and unfettered access to the bridge.”
And Tin, who runs Tin’s Barbershop, said: “Having four-way traffic lights is going to really, really anger people. Just leave it closed. If they have got to wait for a four-way traffic light then it’s going to shut us down again because people will avoid the road.”
Businesses in the village have asked Network Rail to consider compensating them for the effect of the work on their businesses.
Head of Communications Nick Sandham said: “We don’t compensate for planned work. We are publicly-funded and we invest out money into the future of the railways.
“However, when schemes overrun we do a full investigation and we do consider compensation on a case by case basis.”
Local people also said there had been many days when they had seen nobody working on the bridge at all. The asked why they had not been kept informed of the works and appealed for better lighting on the pedestrian footway where one woman has already been assaulted.
One resident told the meeting how her fuel bill had rocketed and it was taking her an unacceptable amount of time to get her children to school.
She said: “There will be fuel poverty and there will be people who’ve had to get payday loans out.
“We just want the job to be done.
“Why did Northamptonshire County Council allow this work to be done at the same time as the work in Geddington Road? They’ve effectively paralysed a corner of Corby.”
Gaye Hood-Henry added: “These businesses have struggled through no fault of their own.
“There are people who have not been able to pay themselves. Some people have not been able to take any holiday.”
Mr Sandham added: “We do understand the issues you’ve been facing as a community. We do take it seriously.”
Jamie Stevenson who runs the Old Village Fish and Chip Shop said that he believed the meeting was only arranged to appease the anger. He said: “This is to keep us quiet.
“You tell me how you’re going to compensate the businesses?”
The owner of Wilco in The Jamb said: “It’s quite obvious something’s gone wrong.
“There’s been tears. At some point, somebody should have gone to these people and asked them ‘how much money are you going to lose?’
“Somebody’s got to take responsibility.”
Following the meeting, Beth Miller said: “I organised today’s meeting so local people could speak to Network Rail directly.
“I felt it was important that we have clarity on what support is available to local businesses and residents who’ve been put out by the bridge closure.
“Some of the people who came along have had their life turned upside down by the loss of earnings from the closure.
“Many people are down thousands of pounds and aren’t able to pay themselves a salary after bills are paid.
“I am pleased we were able to get Network Rail to agree to look at compensation for the period of delay.
“Now I’m hoping we can negotiate for a gesture of goodwill, perhaps a small sum to the businesses or the refurb of the park so the local community benefits.”