When the bridge works first started

Compensation for road works delays? Don't hold your breath - Jim Parker

Jim Parker

Is it me, or are there an awful lot of roadworks in and around the Bay at the moment?

There used to be an urban myth that local authorities had to spend any cash they had on things like resurfacing schemes before April or they would lose the money.

Urban myth or not, there was always a plethora of roadworks here, there and everywhere in the autumn and winter months to avoid the busy early summer and main season.

We will all concede that some schemes are essential and of an emergency nature no matter what the time of the year like gas leaks and power failures.

But some works just go on and on and take longer than they should, causing chaos in the busier months as well as creating a bad impression for our holidaymakers.

Take the project to replace the rail bridge at Wheatridge Lane at Livermead which has led to the closure of part of the main seafront Torbay Road between Torquay and Paignton for several months and is still requiring some closures now and well into the main holiday season.

Local MP Kevin Foster has been on the case and so, too, have council leader Steve Darling and his deputy, Darren Cowell. Among other requests, they have been seeking compensation for residents whose lives have been turned upside down by diversion routes and heavy traffic on their doorsteps.

The two councillors first wrote to Ministers at the Department of Transport back in March. At that time they were calling for rail travel between Torre, Torquay and Paignton to be free to encourage travellers to use the train rather than car; conversations to be with Stagecoach to consider what subsidies could be passed on to bus user for a month post the reopening to encourage local people to use routes such as the badly-impacted 12 and 22 services; and for residents on the diversion route to be compensated.

At the time Ed Vokes, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, responded saying the Department for Transport has taken up the matter with Network Rail to understand how the current situation has been reached and what can be done to expedite it.

He wrote: “We are disappointed that this bridge replacement is taking far longer than anticipated and fully appreciate the impact that this delay will have on the local community and economy, particularly at the start of the important tourism season.

“On behalf of NetworkRail and its contractor, we sincerely apologise to local residents, businesses and road users for the delay.”‘

He said Network Rail had faced a ‘number of unforeseen challenges’ which resulted in two significant delays which centred on the installation of the beams that will ultimately hold the road surface and a series of severe storms in February.

He added: “Network Rail assure us that their team will be working closely with the contractor to ensure there are no further delays. I know this is of little consolation but please be assured that the Department will continue to monitor this situation closely and expect the dates they have given to be met in order that Torbay can get back to normal as soon as possible.”

Cllrs Darling and Cowell have now written again to the Ministry.

The railway bridge finally reopened on May 23 following months of delay. But the rebuilding of the parapet has led to overnight occasional closure of the road which is set to last well into July.

The councillors says: “We would like to draw to your attention to the fact that this scheme has lasted approximately three times longer than the planned period of the works and in these exceptional circumstances the Government should facilitate compensation to local residents on the diversion route and others immediately effected by these works on Torbay Road.”

As I say, some roadworks cannot be avoided and are a must at at time of the year, probably including the rail bridge project.  But should there have been ‘unforeseen challenges’ in the first place? Shouldn’t that be all part of the planning process in such a large and important scheme?

Perhaps utility companies and contractors should be held more to account?

By the way, if the Livermead residents are compensated, than so should the traders and people of Torwood Street who had to cope for weeks and weeks with a giant hole left in the busy street at the end resurfacing works.

Then again I think compensation is as likely as England winning the next World Cup!