Friday, 18 June 2021

Traffic disruption from bridge closure not as bad as feared

TRAFFIC has been flowing fairly smoothly despite the closure of Whitchurch toll bridge.

TRAFFIC has been flowing fairly smoothly despite the closure of Whitchurch toll bridge.

Residents of Sonning, Caversham and Goring, where the nearest alternative river crossings are located, feared there would be chaos during the six-month closure, which began on Thursday last week.

But in fact all three places have seen little extra traffic and congestion has been not much worse than normal.

Motorists are being diverted via the nearest alternative bridge in Goring and there are signs warning drivers of the closures in all directions.

There are temporary parking restrictions in the centre of Goring and Whitchurch and the road between Crays Pond and Whitchurch via Whitchurch Hill is shut except for access.

Whitchurch Parish Council chairman Harry Butterworth had feared a “bunfight” involving drivers forced to turn around at the bottom of High Street. However, he said: “It’s amazing — people have been very sensible and there have been no major problems.

“I think you have to plan for the worst but be delighted when it doesn’t happen.”

Carole North, who runs the Greyhound pub in High Street, said: “We were worried about people parking in our car park to catch a train at Pangbourne but that hasn’t happened. I think most people have realised it’s too risky and made alternative arrangements.

“We don’t yet know how the closure will affect trade. The weather is still good but it could get quiet when we lose that because people won’t want to walk here.”

Goring parish clerk Peter Clegg, who commutes to the village from Blewbury each day, said: “It has been business as usual as far as I can see. My wife also works in Goring and we had been planning alternative routes but we’ve found we don’t need to use them.”

Police were monitoring traffic in Goring high street on the first morning of the closure but said there had been no problems.

Sgt Graham Pink, of Henley police, said: “We encountered no issues and most people I’ve spoken to say it’s going well.

“People need to carry on leaving enough time because things could get a lot slower in bad weather or poor road conditions.”

The toll bridge, which is more than 100 years old, is undergoing strengthening work and will be closed until April 14. A temporary footbridge is in place.

On October 28, Sonning bridge will also close from 9.30am to 4pm each day for up to two weeks so that the traffic lights can be upgraded.

The bridge will be closed all day from November 4 to 7 as engineers repair the stonework underneath it. This means that the 16,000 cars which usually use the bridge every day will have to go through Henley or Reading instead.

Michael Emmanuel, owner of the French Horn restaurant in Sonning, said: “Since Whitchurch Bridge closed, the traffic in Sonning has started building up about 10 minutes earlier than usual at peak times.

“I’m not happy about our bridge closing as well and it is going to be tricky. However, the work needs to be done and we will manage it as best we can.”

Darren Wood, who owns Caversham Cobbler and Keysmith and commutes to work from Arborfield, said: “When I found out Whitchurch Bridge had closed, I started coming to work through Sonning instead. If they close that bridge as well, things are definitely going to build up.”

lWhat do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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