Confusion surrounds work on the Stockbridge footbridge after Highways England has sent out conflicting messages.
A public notice issued by the government agency stated the latest work on the A27 structure would take place from August 10 and could last for up to six months.
But a letter from one of its directors to a Chichester resident says work will be completed by August 24. The latest situation adds to the past uncertainty about the future of the footbridge.
A spokesperson for Highways England said yesterday: “We are continuing to work hard to find a solution that will allow us to reopen the refurbished Stockbridge footbridge. In the meantime, we are continuing to operate an alternative pedestrian crossing via a nearby canal underpass. We are sorry for the delay and are grateful for people’s patience and understanding.”
Work on the replacement bridge began in January, 2018, with an original finish date of April but ‘unacceptable movement’ during testing in May led to engineers being called back to try to solve the problem.
Last week, Highways England published a public notice stating that work starting in mid-August will involve overnight closure between 8pm and 6am of both carriageways of the A27 between Whyke and Stockbridge roundabouts, as well as a daytime 50mph speed limit.
All side roads in between and exit and entry slip roads at the Esso services are set for closure, too. The footbridge will be closed completely as will the lay-by next to the bridge and the cycle tracks.
The Highways England spokesperson said: “We publish temporary traffic regulation orders for all our roadworks. They set out what restrictions may be needed for roadworks and a broad timescale. It does not mean that all the measures will be needed for the whole period.
“The traffic order published last week for the A27 renews an existing order which recently expired. While this includes the option for a 50mph speed limit, we expect not to have to use it. We also fully expect to have completed the work well within the six months specified in the document.”
However, a resident in the area who had complained to Highways England, received a letter dated July 23, from Duncan Smith, regional director south east operations, which said: “I am pleased to inform you that the extensive technical analysis, modelling and design work undertaken since the issues were identified in March has now allowed us to identify a solution that we believe will resolve the movement issues experienced to within acceptable limits.
“Subject to the final relevant technical approvals being achieved, work being completed as programmed and passing on site testing by our engineers, we hope to be able to open the bridge to pedestrians prior to the bank holiday weekend starting on August 24. We have no plans to reinstate the 50mph speed limit.
As reported in the Chichester Post last month, Highways England said the bridge was structurally sound, but movement would prevent people being able to use it safely and comfortably.
A Highways England spokesperson said then: “We look forward to opening the new Stockbridge footbridge soon and we are sorry for the delay.
“During our routine testing, we identified an issue that could cause the walkway to move unacceptably in certain conditions.
“All bridges need to allow a certain amount of controlled movement to protect the integrity of the structure. We are looking at engineering solutions that reduce this movement to allow safe and comfortable use of the walkway over the bridge.
“There is absolutely not an issue with the structural integrity of the bridge – this is about completing final adjustments to ensure that the walkway can be used comfortably and safely. We still expect to open the new footbridge as soon as this work is complete.”
Highways England has also revealed that CCTV cameras installed in the interests of safety for pedestrians using a diversion along the canal were stolen within days of being installed.
The temporary pedestrian diversion via the canal underpass is still in place 24 hours a day and councillors have reported a drop in drug crimes in the area due to the extra footfall.