Bad weather and Covid-19 derail project to rebuild Wellingborough bridge

Work to upgrade the Irthlingborough Road bridge had been on target for completion by August, but this has been delayed

By Stephanie Weaver
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 6:00 am
Irthlingborough Road bridge when it was demolished
Irthlingborough Road bridge when it was demolished

Bad weather and Covid-19 have led to another delay in the rebuilding of a Wellingborough bridge.

The Irthlingborough Road bridge, linking the town to the Leyland Trading Estate and onto Irthlingborough, was closed in October 2018 and demolished as part of Network Rail’s electrification works.

Businesses were promised it would re-open by April 2019, but were furious when it was announced in February that the replacement bridge wouldn’t be built after all.

However, following pressure from businesses and MPs, Network Rail said in April that a replacement bridge would be built at an increased height.

Work started last November and despite being on target for completion next month, Network Rail says severe weather and the pandemic have led to another delay.

Work has taken place to build the bridge at a raised height, as part of the £1.5 billion Midland main line upgrade.

This will allow overhead line equipment to safely pass beneath it, as the line between Bedford and Kettering/Corby is electrified.

The work has led to road closures and diversions in the area

But high winds in February and March meant some of the work which involves using a large crane had to be paused until it could be carried out safely.

Work was completed to remove the large crane from the site before the Government announced lockdown.

Covid-19 has also impacted on progress, as social distancing measures were put in place on the site.

Network Rail has suspended access on the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists to maintain adequate social distancing.

The nearest crossing point for pedestrians and cyclists is via Midland Road, which is next to Wellingborough Station.

The delays mean that the project to upgrade Irthlingborough Road bridge is now expected to be completed by December.

Gavin Crook, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, said: “We would like to thank people in Wellingborough for their continued patience while this vital part of the Midland Main Line upgrade is carried out.

“The safety of our workers and members of the public is our main priority, and unfortunately, the severe weather earlier this year, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic, meant that there were some changes to our programme of work.

"We are now making good progress and would like to apologise for any inconvenience.

“Once complete, the Midland Main Line upgrade will bring significant benefits for passengers, including more seats, faster journeys and a more reliable railway.”

Network Rail says it has kept local businesses updated with information about the project and the road closure.

A signposted diversionary route for motorists remains in place and they are regularly reviewing the programme of work and say they will continue to look for opportunities where the project can be completed quicker.

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