Campaigners’ delight at Wellingborough bridge U-turn

The demolished bridge
The demolished bridge

Campaigners have spoken of their joy after rail bosses backed down on a decision not to re-build a Wellingborough bridge.

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.

Furious businesses said the closure is costing them customers. NNL-190214-211207005

Furious businesses said the closure is costing them customers. NNL-190214-211207005

Businesses were promised 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.

But, under mounting pressure after MPs wrote to the Secretary of State and a petition to re-instate the bridge gained almost 4,000 signatures, rail bosses U-turned last week and said they would now build a replacement.

Paul Cousens, manager at Wellingborough Tyres on the Leyland Trading Estate, said he was delighted by the news.

He said: “We are really, really happy that they are now going to build it.

Rob McIntosh from Network Rail. NNL-190424-142929005

Rob McIntosh from Network Rail. NNL-190424-142929005

“I think it’s common sense but they had to look at it afresh and logically.”

The new bridge will be built at a raised height so high-voltage overhead line equipment can be installed to allow the railway from Bedford to Kettering and Corby to be electrified.

Route managing director for Network Rail Rob McIntosh said: “We are currently working on a programme for this project and work to reconstruct the bridge will begin as soon as possible.

“While we remain supportive of Route 2, as part of the Stanton Cross development, it is now clear that its completion will take longer than anticipated and cause a period of prolonged inconvenience for the community.

“We would like to thank residents and businesses for their feedback and apologise for the disruption caused by this work.”

When asked for a timescale on the bridge workby the Northants Telegraph, a Network Rail spokesman said they didn’t have any they could share yet.

Mr Cousens says business has been slow but that the replacement bridge will “put them on a level playing field”.

He said: “Some people wanted it done yesterday but the way I look at it if it’s done by September I will be happy, I’ll be delirious.

“We are never going to get back the money we have lost and we may never get back some of the customers we have lost.

“But this will put us back on a level playing field.”

Andy Coles, owner of Sign and Graphic Solutions on the estate, said: “Everyone is absolutely delighted with the outcome so far.

“But it’s not reached its full conclusion until the bridge is finally opened and those grossly affected have been reimbursed with compensation.”

He added that they will be keeping up the pressure on and that they won’t let the campaign rest until they have answers on the time frame.

He said: “Considering the designs have been done and Network Rail have declared it will be built on a like-for-like basis, we’d hope it would it would be done within four months.”

Mr Coles paid testament to the hard work of campaigners and politicians for their campaign.

Cllr Gill Mercer (Con), who was a key figure behind the campaign, said: “We are absolutely delighted that they [Network Rail] came back and said they were going to open the bridge.

“After the initial euphoria we have to keep up the pressure and hold their feet to the fire.”

Cllr Mercer said she agreed with Mr Coles that the bridge work should take between three and four months and said she would be meeting with Network Rail to go through the details of the project.

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone said: “We’ve campaigned with ROAR (Reinstate Our Access Road) to get the Leyland Bridge rebuilt and it is now confirmed Network Rail will restore the bridge.

“Thanks to all those from the listening team and ROAR who have worked so hard, especially Cllr Gill Mercer.”

Corby MP Tom Pursglove, whose Irthlingborough constituents are affected by the closure, said: “This is brilliant news. I am absolutely delighted that our listening campaign has proven to be successful on this.

“Thank you to ROAR who have done a brilliant job as the action group and Cllr Gill Mercer for helping to lead that effort.

“I am really pleased that Network Rail have listened.”