Ansford Bridge closure costing local economy millions, says MP

Ansford Bridge
Image caption Ansford Bridge has been closed since July while Network Rail carries out maintenance work

The closure of a Somerset road bridge is costing the local economy millions of pounds, the area's MP has said.

Liberal Democrat for Somerton and Frome, David Heath, said traders in Castle Cary were losing business due to the closure of the Ansford Bridge.

The bridge on the A371 has been closed since July while Network Rail carries out maintenance work.

The rail operator has apologised for the inconvenience but says the 19-week programme of work is essential.

"I've taken it up with transport ministers before," Mr Health added, after raising the point in the House of Commons.

"It hasn't had a huge amount of effect, because Network Rail are actually a law unto themselves. They are not responsible directly to ministers.

"What we want is that road open as quickly as possible, businesses getting back on their feet, and the end of the disruption and the trouble to so many local people."

'Negative impact'

Image caption Mark Davis said the bridge closure had cost his business tens of thousands of pounds

Mark Davis, a distribution manager at Centaur Services in in Castle Cary, said the closure had had a big impact on his business.

"We reckon on the period of the 19-week closure that it's costing us in the region of £55,000," he added.

"That's in extra fuel, time, drivers' hours - so it's quite a significant impact on us."

The population of Castle Cary and Ansford, as well as surrounding parishes, is 3,000, according to South Somerset District Council.

The repair works - which means an 18-mile diversion for some traffic - began in July.

Work was due to begin in September last year but was postponed after complaints about a lack of consultation.

Figures commissioned by South Somerset District Council suggested an increase of £1m in additional costs to the eight largest companies in the immediate vicinity of the road closure.

The council further estimated that "at least another £1m" will apply to smaller businesses in the area.

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