CRITICS who opposed emergency closures of Worcester Bridge put convenience before safety, it has been claimed.

Labour and Conservative members of Worcester City Council's transportation sub-committee "wholeheartedly supported" the decision to seal off the bridge on Tuesday and Wednesday, despite complaints.

They paid tribute to the emergency services, saying safety was paramount and delays were preferable to disaster.

"It's wrong to label the police 'morons'," said Coun David Bannister.

"It's not very long since people were saying safety should come first on the railways, even if this meant inconvenience.

"If the choice is between better traffic flow and public safety there cannot be any argument. The officers made the right decision."

Coun Adrian Gregson said it was "very unhelpful that some councillors had been mouthing off" in the Press and on the radio about the authorities' handling of the situation.

PC Mike Digger, West Mercia's traffic management officer, said he had never seen the river rise as quickly as it did during Tuesday and Wednesday.

He told the meeting the Severn had risen so rapidly that he witnessed the levels altering minute-by-minute.

John Day, the council's head of transportation, admitted the emergency planners had failed to realise how quickly people would respond to the news that Worcester Bridge would be shut on Tuesday afternoon.

"The radio stations had been very helpful in getting information out to the public," he said.

"But the message went out that shops would close at 4pm and we got a very early peak hour. We never expected that."

Mr Day said "lessons had been learnt" and a "tidal flow" traffic management scheme had since been introduced, to lessen congestion.