TEMPORARY traffic lights on Abingdon Bridge have cost the council almost £87,000 since they were installed in May last year.

The lights were installed on the 15th century bridge, which carries the A415 across the River Thames, to enable vehicles up to 44 tonnes to continue to use the bridge safely by avoiding the weakened area.

This was after it was discovered that the stonework to the eastern side of the north arch of the bridge had become displaced, reducing its strength.

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Oxfordshire County Council ordered repairs to take place but these have been delayed due to a shortage of engineering staff and waiting for statutory approvals leading to the prolonged use of the signals costing the authority a total of £86,980.76 from May 2021 to last month.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the council by a member of the public revealed the weekly cost of the signals has been £379.26 for the equipment and up to £1,381.70 for attendance of operatives.

The signals have been causing traffic delays and congestion on surrounding roads since installation leaving residents frustrated with the delays.

County Councillor Nathan Ley, who represents North Abingdon, said: “I share the frustrations of everyone else in the town, and I’m irritated with the resultant traffic which has blighted many people going about their normal daily lives.

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“At first glance the cost for the temporary lights seems high, but it’s comparable with other places.

“Abingdon Bridge is a Scheduled Monument, so while we’re keen for this to be resolved quickly, making sure we get it right for its long-term future is also important.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “They have cost so much because manual controls have been required to help reduce congestion at peak times and the repairs to the 15th century bridge could not be implemented as quickly as wished due to the statutory approvals required.

“There has also been a shortage of engineering staff to progress the design and these consents.

“Repairs are now being carried out, which should enable the temporary traffic signals to be removed before Christmas.

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“However, the fully planned repairs have not been able to be implemented, due to the discovery of a Thames Water main being cut into to the top of the arch barrel and there being a risk of further utilities being cut into the arch barrel, which could conflict with the proposed strengthening measures.

“It has [also] been found that there is a potential for bats to be disturbed. Bats are a protected species and it is an offence to disturb a potential bat roost.

“It was intended to confirm no bats were present prior to carrying out these additional excavations.

“The void was, however, found to be more extensive than envisaged and could not be practically fully investigated.

“This can now only be practically established by carrying out emergence surveys for bats when they are expected to be active. This will not now be until next Spring. A licence will then need to be obtained which may take a few months.

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“It is therefore now proposed to finish the strengthening work together with some further maintenance work to the bridge next Summer/Autumn.”


Read more from this author

This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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