No compensation for Wellingborough businesses after bridge shambles

Fed-up business owners on the Leyland estate.
Fed-up business owners on the Leyland estate.

Fed-up businesses affected by a drawn out Wellingborough bridge closure have been told they won't receive any compensation.

The Irthlingborough Road bridge, linking the town to the Leyland Trading Estate, was closed in October and demolished as part of Network Rail’s electrification works.

The demolished bridge.

The demolished bridge.

Businesses were told it would re-open by April with a 4.9 mile diversion in the meantime, but were left furious when it was announced in February that the replacement bridge wouldn’t be built after all.

Under pressure they U-turned on their U-turn and said they would build a new bridge but that it wouldn't open until early summer 2020 - more than 12 months after the opening date they were originally promised and taking far longer than the promised bridge would have taken.

Now, facing a loss in trade and profits, they have been dealt a further blow after Network Rail told them they would not be in line for any reimbursement for their troubles.

Paul Cousens, manager at Wellingborough Tyres on the estate, said: "You don't take an engine apart without knowing how to put it back together.

"It's just excuse after excuse."

In a letter to Mr Cousens, Network Rail's loss adjusters said discussions were held about combining the reconstruction of the demolished bridge with the building of a further bridge as part of Stanton Cross works.

Whilst these discussions took place the rail body considered a temporary structure but said it would have cost the same as, or possibly more than, re-instating the bridge permanently.

They said that they decided to re-instate the Irthlingborough Road bridge because the temporary bridge would be uneconomic and the construction of the further bridge would take an 'unreasonable' amount of time.

The letter said: "Accordingly, a brief review of alternatives was therefore in the public interest, although we appreciate this will have caused a slight extension of the road closure, which, whilst deeply regrettable, was unavoidable."

Mr Cousens said the claim the delay was unavoidable was "a load of tosh".

He added: "They were never going to say they were liable.

"The problem is, for anyone like us to start looking into that it costs us money. They know that unless we all club together we won't afford it."

Wellingborough Tyres' gross profits are down by about £3,500 per month and Mr Cousens said he had taken it personally.

Despite only originally planning for a six-month road closure Northamptonshire County Council granted Network Rail an 18-month time period to demolish and re-construct the bridge.

This, Network Rail's loss adjusters said, meant that "Network Rail have acted reasonably and within their statutory powers".

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, all compensation claims which are submitted to Network Rail are considered on a case by case basis and assessed independently.

"Network Rail is a tax-payer funded organisation and compensation claims are therefore rigorously assessed before any decision is reached.

“Network Rail recently announced that a like-for-like structure will be reconstructed to replace the one which was demolished in late 2018.

"This bridge will be built in the same location, but will be rebuilt at a raised height to allow for the safe passage of high-voltage overhead line equipment which needs to be installed to allow the railway from Bedford to Kettering and Corby to be electrified. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank all those affected for their patience.”

Mr Cousens said the authorities were running and hiding and that they will look into an appeal.

He added: "We were either lied to at the start or we are being fobbed off now."