A bridge WAY too far! Furious villagers are forced to drive an extra 18 miles to the nearest town while a bridge is repaired – adding an hour to their journeys
Frustrated villagers have criticised delays in repairing a bridge over a tiny stream that is adding up to an hour on round trips to the nearest town.
Residents of East Ruston in Norfolk normally drive around six miles to get to North Walsham but are currently having to take a circuitous 15-mile route because of diversions – an extra 18 miles in both directions.
They also say the hold-up until a new bridge is installed will typically cost drivers £1,000 extra in fuel when they can least afford it due to the cost of living crisis.
‘Confusing’ detour signs have added another headache as outsiders are getting lost as they try to find their way around an isolated part of the county with a poor road network.
Frustrated villagers in East Ruston, Norfolk have criticised delays in repairing a bridge over a tiny stream that is adding up to an hour on round trips to the nearest town of North Walsham
Resident Andrea Lyons, 59, said: ‘You have to do a seven to ten-mile detour to get to North Walsham, depending on where you are in the village.
‘Many people go there. We’ve got a small village school and four out of the eight teachers have to go the long way there and 11 out of the 32 school families are having to do the trip twice a day.
‘There are also people who work in North Walsham, around half the villagers see their GP there, and it has a Tesco and Lidl.
‘I think the [Norfolk County Council’s] highways department were under the impression they could drag their heels because it’s a small village with retired people who have lots of money. But that isn’t the case at all.
‘We had a parish council meeting on Monday and a bridgework engineer came from the highways department. He was sent out like a lamb to the slaughter by the natives around here.
‘We’ve been told the new bridge will be ready in March but that is ‘weather dependent’, so they’re not committing to finish it by March.
‘We’ve had high rainfall and the marshes are flooded, so there could be substantial delays because of the weather.’
Mrs Lyons, a retired administrative assistant who lives with husband Nick, 69, a retired wheelwright added: ‘The diversion signs are completely confusing. A friend of mine bumped into a man who’d been holidaying here for years and he spent two hours trying to drive back to his holiday cottage.’
Stephen Bracey, who owns Broadland Eggs which sends produce across the area, complained: ‘It’s a major headache for me as a farmer. I have to use the main roads and get all of the abuse for holding traffic up.
‘It’s unfair on the local community to put them through this for so long.’
Residents of East Ruston in Norfolk normally drive around six miles to get to North Walsham but are currently having to take a circuitous 15-mile route because of diversions – an extra 18 miles in both directions
East Ruston Parish Council chairman Heath Brooks said: ‘Unless you’re going to the coast, we’ve got two roads out of the village. This is a very commonly-used road to get to our nearest town of North Walsham. It’s a critical route.
‘The problem is where bureaucracy comes in. They have to speak to loads of departments, which takes time. They have to speak to the drainage board that controls the stream underneath and it can take up to eight weeks to get a decision. They have to put tenders out. Bats and voles have to be investigated.
‘If it was further up their priorities it would be done quicker but because it’s a minor road it’s taking longer.’
Brick-built Honing New Bridge was erected in the 1920s. It passes over Hundred Stream, so-called because it and other local waterways separated areas that were called upon to provide 100 men each to bear arms at the behest of the local lord.
A bridge engineer discovered a crack in the bridge in March but it was not until June that the villagers of East Ruston, who number fewer than 600, were told it was being closed.
Work to replace the bridge with a concrete structure will not begin until February. Journeys to and from other local communities such as Dilham, Smallburgh and the county town of Norwich are also experiencing huge delays as people follow detours.
Mrs Lyons added: ‘They said a repair like this would normally take two years and that we’re lucky they’re going to do it much quicker for us but it doesn’t seem like that from where we’re sitting.’
Pedestrians and cyclists can still use the bridge for now but they will also be banned when the works start.
A county council spokesman said: ‘Following a recent inspection of the bridge, we became aware of a significant structural defect, potentially caused by poor ground conditions beneath the original structure.
‘Work has been commissioned to design a replacement bridge that will remain safe in this location, which will be built as soon as possible.
‘We are taking steps to have a new bridge constructed as quickly as possible, while guaranteeing the safety of road users for years to come.’
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