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Worcester Bridge back open - but for how long?
MORE flooding could cause Worcester Bridge to close a second time today - with drivers warned to expect continued disruption.
After chaotic rush hour delays yesterday, Worcestershire County Council re-opened one carriageway of the bridge at 1pm to allow traffic to flow through to Deansway instead of the shut North Parade.
A team of council workers spent last night directing traffic through one way at a time, with staff working on a rota basis around-the-clock to get the city moving.
The Worcester Bridge is used by 35,000 cars on a typical day.
But the respite could prove to be temporary, with warnings that a forecast of continued rain today is set to add serious pressure to the swollen rivers.
Although the River Severn peaked at 5.4 metres yesterday the Kempsey Gauge was expected to hit a high of 7.1 metres last night and the Environment Agency say the extra rain today could see the situation change rapidly.
Jon Fraser, from Worcestershire Highways, said: "We've decided to direct traffic over one lane of the bridge and there's a rota in place so staff can work through the night.
"Things are changing all the time and there is the possibility that river levels will rise past the peaks we've seen. We are reviewing things constantly."
Due to a massive build up of debris underneath the bridge, the council had to examine the structure yesterday to ensure it had not been damaged, and said they found no problems.
Councillor Adrian Hardman, county council leader, said: "We did a structural survey because it was being put under great pressure laterally - it's designed to carry weight on the top, not the sides.
"Safety is our paramount issue. We have got one carriageway open but there is the possibility it may have to close again, we will have to wait and see."
New Road will also remain open today unless flooding causes it to become impassable.
The county council has also defended the decision to close Worcester Bridge, saying it was a “last resort”.
The sudden closure on Sunday led to disgruntled motorists questioning the need to shut the route for nearly 25 hours.
The steady build-up of debris under the bridge meant an unusual amount of extra strain was being put on the structure, resulting in structural engineers having to assess how safe it was.
The rising river levels also flooded Hylton Road and North Parade, while there were concerns New Road would become impassable by yesterday morning, which prompted the decision.
The council said that once the structure had been considered safe, and with New Road passable yesterday, all the relevant bodies agreed the 1pm re-opening of the one carriageway without floodwater.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, deputy leader, said: “The decision to close the bridge was done from the best possible advice we had at the time, it was not taken lightly.
“We appreciate many thousands of people have had their daily lives disrupted and knew the network would be under severe strain.
“Keeping it open will rely on floodwater staying off New Road.”
The council also said they “fully expected” the floods to carry all the way across New Road on Sunday evening, but in the end it fell just short.
Mr Fraser: “With the amount of time it takes to create the diversions we had to make a decision, and at 9pm on Sunday we fully expected it to go across New Road and into Cripplegate Park.”
Last night roads still closed included Bewdley Bridge, the B4088 Eckington Bridge, Hylton Road, Croft Road, Tybridge Street and North Parade in Worcester, the B4195 Stourport Road in Bewdley, Upton Bridge, the A443 Lindridge and the temporary footbridge in Abbey Road, Evesham.
The C2099 New Street and B4211 Hanley Road, both in Upton, Shell Ford from Bradley Green to Himbleton, and Walcot Ford from Pershore to Drakes Broughton were also shut.
Severn Trent's water pipe replacement work at St Peter's island, at the top of the A38 Bath Road in Worcester will remain suspended today to help traffic flow, as well as the gas works in Droitwich Road.
After the re-opening of Crowngate bus station yesterday afternoon, people using buses from St John's have been warned to expect delays.
Buses going over the bridge via New Road will head the wrong way up Bridge Street, through Deansway, onto College Street and then to St Nicholas Street and the station via City Walls Road.