Furious Wellingborough businesses demand answers over rail bridge

Struggling businesses on a Wellingborough estate are demanding answers over a bridge closure which cuts them off from the town.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 12:35 pm
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 9:37 am
Furious business owners are demanding answers. NNL-190214-211207005

Companies on the Leyland Trading Estate say the closure of a stretch of Irthlingborough Road, which started in October, is costing them thousands.

The closure saw the railway bridge demolished as part of Network Rail’s electrification of the line and they said they would re-construct it to open by April 11.

The bridge has been demolished. This was the bridge site yesterday afternoon. NNL-190214-211231005

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But firms say some authorities have told them it will open as planned, some have told them it will open much later and some have told them it won’t open at all.

They’re now demanding Network Rail confirm exactly what their plans are so they can plan their business properly.

Paul Cousens is manager at family-run Wellingborough Tyres, a firm he described as his ‘dad’s baby’, who have been on the estate for more than 30 years.

They have 14 staff but turnover is down about 10 per cent year-on-year. One staff member who left has not been replaced and Paul admitted he was losing enough money to let go of more employees.

The diversion is just under five miles long. NNL-190214-211357005

He said: “Because of no actions by ourself we’re seeing it all fall away.

“We just want someone to say what’s happening. It’s all very annoying.”

The Northants Telegraph asked Network Rail to clarify where the works were at and when traffic would be able to travel over the bridge again. They have not yet responded.

The estate is managed by Birmingham-based property management company Whittle Jones, who said they were also chasing an overdue update from Network Rail.

A spokesman said: “Whittle Jones have been liaising closely with occupiers on Leyland Trading Estate regarding the inconvenience of the road closure by Network Rail. The last update from Network Rail was received at the end of last year, and was circulated to all tenants.

“The latest update from Network Rail is overdue and we are chasing for their response presently. As soon as we receive an update this will be forwarded to all parties concerned.”

A pedestrian footbridge remains over the railway line but a stopping up order for the highway has been pinned to a board nearby.

Yesterday (Thursday) businesses said a copy of this order was not available for inspection at Wellingborough Council offices.

One businessman says he was told by highways that the road would definitely open as close to April 11 as possible.

Others say they have been told the road will not open at all and that new Stanton Cross routes would instead connect the estate to the town, but none of these are near completion.

Because of the closure traffic coming from Wellingborough has to go around the town, down Sidegate Lane and past the front of the first Stanton Cross houses.

The nearest road to the west side of the bridge is Prescod Close, which is just 400m from the Leyland Trading Estate on the east side.

The diversion makes the same journey 4.9 miles long, according to Google Maps.

Paul Gillett, director of Gibsons Haulage, said the fuel and extra labour for the diversion is costing him about £20 per day for each of his 14 trucks on the road.

Ryan Bayes, operation manager at Prestige Development, said: “It’s just a massive inconvenience getting into the estate for anyone coming from the Wellingborough side.

“There’s disruption getting here in the morning and leaving in the evenings. It’s had so much impact on everyone here and it’s chaos for suppliers who don’t know the roads.”

Craig Martin, warehouse manager at Assmann Furniture, said they have two warehouses on site.

He said: “We were looking at taking another warehouse but because of the access problems we are going to look elsewhere.”

The RockyJo’s cafe on the estate shut last month and owner Rebecca Darton said the road closure was killing businesses.

She said: “For the past two years there’s been one road or another into the estate shut. We were down £5,000 a year.

“Network Rail said a while ago it wouldn’t re-open and then others have said it will but nobody seemed to want to talk to us.”

Rebecca stopped paying rent when the bridge closed and after her payment offer was rejected the landlords, who Rebecca criticised over their approach, sent in the bailiffs.

She said the experience has put her off starting up again.

She said: “There’s nothing any small business can do about it.

“I had put my heart and soul into that cafe for four years but I haven’t got the heart to do it all over again.”

The works have also left the road on the entrance covered in mud.

Brian Ausden, owner of RGS Motorsport and RGS Motorbikes, said he’s being asked three times a day by customers when the bridge will open - but can never give them an answer.

He said: “There’s clearly plans but nobody will put anything in writing.

“Some customers aren’t coming because they don’t want to go the long way round.

“If you lose a customer you you don’t know where they’re going or what job you’ve missed out on, and when you do some jobs that are £15,000 that’s hard to take.

“Businesses make plans but we don’t know how things outside our control are going to change them because we’re just not being told.”

He added that if things don’t change in the next three months he will have to look to move.

It’s estimated 1,000 people work on the site and with only one entrance the works are effecting them too.

Mr Cousens said that when the road closed, and with buses no longer travelling the route, the road was longer gritted.

He said there have been two accidents with both crashes closing the road. He said it meant everyone was penned in to the estate with no exit for about two hours.

Jon Foster from Fresh Ideas Direct said: “It was going to be a minor inconvenience but now it’s sounding like it could be permanent we will have to consider re-locating.

“I feel really sorry for the retailers where people have to come to them because they just won’t.”

Traffic problems may only get worse from Monday (February 18) when roadworks start in nearby Ditchford Lane.

And even when motorists finally exit Wellingborough, many will be faced with a slow-moving A45 for months because of bridge works there.

Andy Coles, owner of Sign and Graphic Solutions, said it is costing him more than it would to employ an extra member of staff and that the road is a lifeline to any success of the town centre, with workers no longer having access to the town.

He said: “It’s diabolical. We can’t get any information from anyone concerned.”

Asked if he felt like authorities had treated businesses as an afterthought, he said: “Afterthought? We were never thought of.”