Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Storm not as bad as feared

A STORM during the night and early hours of Monday caused transport problems in Henley and South Oxfordshire.

A STORM during the night and early hours of Monday caused transport problems in Henley and South Oxfordshire.

Winds of up to 70mph brought down trees on roads, causing delays to drivers in the morning rush hour. Train passengers were also disrupted and some homes lost power.

Teams of council workmen worked through the night and into the morning to clear fallen trees from roads as well as debris from broken branches and wheelie bins that had been blown over, spilling their contents.

However, the storm — named St Jude — caused much less damage than had been predicted by weathermen and other places in the South were worse hit as at least four people were killed.

A tree fell in the grounds of Friar Park in Henley, which is owned by Olivia Harrison, and crashed down on to a Peugeot 206 parked in Hop Gardens at about 7.50am.

About an hour earlier Marlow Road was blocked by Swiss Farm after a tree was blown down.

During the early hours, two trees fell in Remenham Hill, blocking part of the carriageway, and another one did the same in White Hill.

The fallen trees were removed by teams of workmen from Wokingham Borough Council.

A power cable was brought down by a fallen tree on Devil’s Hill, Henley.

Drivers were forced to stop and clear Wargrave Road between Kentons Lane and Henley Rowing Club after a tree came down.

Eddie Garland, one of the drivers, said: “It was really the ‘Dunkirk sprit’ with at least 20 of us clearing the road, knowing that the local authority wouldn’t be in a position to attend.”

Drivers were forced to go via Crazies Hill and White Hill, which was strewn with fallen branches. Queues of traffic formed on Remenham Hill. Elsewhere, police shut the Charlgrove to Watlington Road at 3.10am due to a fallen tree blocking both carriageways.

There were also reports of trees coming down in Lea Road, Sonning Common, Howe Hill, Watlington and Mill Road, Shiplake. There was a leaning tree reported on the A4074 at Chazey Heath and other trees came down at Holland Ridge Lane, Watlington.

Oxfordshire County Council had highways staff on standby from 11pm on Sunday and they attended about 70 incidents involving fallen or leaning trees.

Reading Bridge was closed by police for part of the morning rush hour due to fallen trees blocking the route, causing traffic tailbacks as far as Henley Road, Caversham.

Commuters were delayed for up to two hours getting into the town from Marlow and trains from Henley to London Paddington were badly disrupted. Reading Buses reported a disrupted service due to trees on the roads. A Pink 23 service bus narrowly avoided trees that crashed either side of it in George Street, Caversham.

The Vitality 2 bus service from Kingwood to Mortimer via Reading, which stops at Peppard Common and Sonning Common, was delayed by up to 50 minutes.

There were power cuts in parts of Henley, Wargrave and Shiplake for up to two hours on Monday morning.

Sonning Bridge remained open on Monday as planned maintenance work was postponed for 24 hours.

The bridge has been shut to traffic from 9.30am to 4pm every other weekday this week so the traffic lights can be replaced.

It will be closed for 24 hours a day from Monday to Thursday next week as engineers repair the stonework underneath the bridge.

No major traffic problems were expected this week as it is the half-term school holidays but next week most of the 16,000 vehicles which usually use the bridge every day will be forced to go through Henley or Reading.

Wokingham Borough Council says it will monitor traffic on the surrounding roads and, where possible, adjust the start of works each day to minimise the impact on drivers. Keith Baker, executive member for strategic planning and highways, said: “Unfortunately, due to the nature of the works, the restricted space available and for our contractors to operate in a safe and proper manner, it will be necessary to maintain a partial closure of the carriageway and bridge during the construction period.

“We apologise for any inconvenience that these works may cause, especially to those businesses that may be affected.

“We would ask you to please bear with us while we complete these essential works.” The work is scheduled to be completed by November 19 at the latest.

lLights will be installed on the pedestrian walkway across Sonning Bridge during its closure. Sonning Parish Council, Wokingham Borough Council and businesses in the village raised more than £13,000 to pay for the LED lights, which will be sunk into the ground. Movement recognition sensors will automatically switch on the lights when somebody is approaching. The parish council says the lights will make the walkway safer.

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