FRESH calls have been made for a new bridge over the River Thames after the floods caused days of problems for drivers.
The closure of Sonning Bridge created a ripple effect throughout the area and caused major congestion in Henley and Caversham during the rush-hour periods.
An online petition asking Reading Borough Council to review the issue has been set up by Adele Harbor, from Caversham, and signed by more than 2,200 people in a week.
Miss Harbor, 22 a supermarket assistant, said: “Due to the recent flooding, residents of Caversham and the surrounding area are very much in support of a third bridge in Reading as the closure of Sonning, a major commuter cut-through, has been closed, leading to traffic chaos.
“When the bridge is closed it’s absolutely horrific. People have said that their journeys can increase by more than an hour and that traffic backs up all the way to Caversham Heights.
“I thought it would get a couple of hundred signatures and that would be it but I was wrong.”
The debate about a third bridge from Caversham to Reading, which would connect via the A329M, has previously split opinion and plans were shelved in 2007 due to a lack of funding.
It has long been supported by Wokingham Borough Council and Reading Borough Council but Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council remain concerned that it could lead to development in green belt land.
Reading East Conservative MP Rob Wilson wants a third bridge and has previously tried to reach a deal between the neighbouring councils.
He said: “I hope some good will come out of the misery created by the floods and closure of Sonning Bridge.
“This is about relieving a local traffic nightmare inflicted on my constituents and ensuring Reading East continues to power the Thames Valley economy. We place too great a reliance on a tiny local bridge like Sonning to get us out of trouble, which is terrible for Sonning but Reading and Caversham Bridges are also overloaded with no spare capacity when Sonning is closed.”
Since Sonning Bridge closed on Monday last week drivers have been stuck in long queues in Wargrave Road, Remenham Hill and Reading Road in Henley. There were also jams in Caversham and on the A4, near Charvil.
Clare Jones, from Emmer Green, said it took her an hour-and-a-half to travel four miles to work in Caversham due to the queues.
Remenham Lane has also been closed since the start of last week and Thames Side in Henley was shut for periods of Thursday and Friday last week as the road was covered in several inches of water.
On Saturday, New Street was closed even though no surface water was said to be affecting that street or Riverside. The closure caused queues of traffic on Marlow Road stretching as far back as Toad Hall Garden Centre.
Grahame Walker, 72 who lives in Old Brewery Lane, off New Street, said the closure was unnecessary and called it an “act of madness”.
The county council said police reported that Riverside was flooded on Saturday morning and New Street had to be closed because it is part of the one-way system leading to it.
Flood warnings were lifted during this week in Sonning, Playhatch, Caversham, Whitchurch, Goring, Hurley, Charvil and parts of Wargrave by the River Loddon. However, following three nights of rain, warnings were still in place by the Thames in Wargrave as well as in Henley, Shiplake and Mapledurham.
The Environment Agency said that river levels were falling but would remain high and on the floodplain for several days. It said the Thames remained “sensitive” to rainfall. The Met Office forecasts more rain before Sunday but Monday will be better.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Henley wants traffic lights to be adjusted to help traffic flow.
Stefan Gawrysiak asked David Nimmo Smith, who represents the town on Oxfordshire County Council, if the settings could be changed so the lights remain on green for longer for traffic coming into Henley. He suggested altering the lights by Henley Bridge, at the junction of Reading Road and Station Road and in Hart Street.
Cllr Nimmo Smith said the lights were fitted with technology that detects the amount of waiting traffic and adjusts the phasing. But he agreed to raise the issue with council officers.