More than a month of misery for commuters in flood-stricken Cumbria is to end in the new year with the building of a temporary road link between the two halves of Workington.
Two-hour round-trips at rush hour between the north and south of the port, which were severed when three bridges across the river Derwent collapsed or were closed, should be no more than a memory by the spring.
Contractors were given a deadline of 4 January by Cumbria county council to tender for the two-lane crossing, which will be capable of supporting lorries up to 44 tonnes. November’s unprecedented floods, which claimed the life of PC Bill Barker when Northside bridge collapsed as he directed traffic, have seriously affected links with major local employers, including the nuclear complex at Sellafield.
Council engineers have now surveyed a suitable site for the temporary bridge. Jim Buchanan, Labour leader of Cumbria county council, said that the timescale envisaged was “almost unheard of in a civil engineering project of this size”. The project has consequently created an increased amount of mechanical engineering jobs and design engineering jobs.
The crossing will be built between the Northside bridge and the listed stone Calva bridge, built in the 18th century, which was wrenched by the flood more than a foot off its foundations, and now lies at an angle. An Army team installed a temporary footbridge two hundred yards upstream from Calva two weeks ago, completing the work in 10 days.
Contractors will be required to work around the clock, seven days a week, on the bridge, which will restore the main north-south link on the Cumbrian coast. Business in central Workington, on the south bank of the Derwent, has been severely affected by the traffic chaos, which has also hit traders in Cockermouth, seven miles away, where flooding damage was even more severe.
Buchanan said: “We’re fully aware of the impact that the disruption is having on local people and businesses in west Cumbria and every second counts to get this job done as soon as possible. In the meantime we’ll continue to work with the government and underline how important it is that additional public transport continues until a bridge is in place.”
Extra buses have been provided for the 14-mile diversion, a journey that took seconds when the Northside and Calva bridges were open. Special train services are also running on the rail bridge over the Derwent which survived the floods, calling at a temporary North Workington station, which was built earlier this month in a weekend.
The temporary road bridge will be paid for by the government as part of its emergency package for Cumbria. Sadiq Khan, the junior transport minister, said: “We pledged after the floods to give the council the funds it needed to build temporary bridges and to help the area recover in the longer term. We have already funded the temporary footbridge and additional train services.
“The new road bridge will make such a difference to the people of Workington and Cumbria more widely, and we are delighted to help the council ensure that contractors deliver the bridge quickly and effectively.”
Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria chamber of commerce, said: “This is one of the biggest threats to west Cumbria’s economy we have faced. The longer it goes on the more businesses we are at serious risk of losing. It’s very positive news that this temporary bridge will take HGVs as this is a key requirement for businesses. And we welcome the fact that it will be two-lane, which will have a huge impact on the traffic that can be carried.”
Despite the misery caused by the floods in Cumbria, there are some positive elements to the recovery work taking place: more people are needed to complete the repairs. There is an increase in the amount of mechanical engineering jobs and design engineering jobs across the county to cater for the increased work load.
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