Gas work could mean more delay

WORCESTER's main road bridge was opened again today, but traffic could endure another day of delays as workmen replace gas pipes.

The bridge, closed to traffic on Tuesday because of rising flood water, was opened for the first time in both directions at 8am today.

Workmen are working on the bridge to put plastic pipes inside the 70-year-old cast-iron gas mains.

A Transco spokesman said the work should be completed tomorrow, but added that further disruption could be caused as the bridge had been re-opened before expected.

"This kind of work takes take up to five days to complete," he said.

"As the bridge has been closed we have only caused one day of disruption as we expect to finish tomorrow. However further work will have to be done, but due to the disruption of the last few days it may well be postponed."

Andy Walford, Worcester City Council's principal engineer, said while he welcomed the work being done while the bridge was closed, now it was re-opened workman needed to finish as soon as possible.

"This work is not classed as an emergency," he said. "We will be applying the pressure on Transco to get the workmen off the bridge as soon as possible."

He also predicted the floods were over, adding that subsiding water levels meant the start of a massive clear-up.

"We will be giving advice on safe ways in which people can get their lives back to normal," he added.

Worcester police today declined to comment on details of roads still closed in and around the city, but it is understood the following roads remain shut:

* The A38 between Severn Stoke and Sandford.

* Ryall Road and Hanley Road at Upton-upon-Severn.

* Eckington Bridge at Pershore and Hylton Road, Worcester.

It's beer and sandbags for new pub landlord

A NEW village landlord had little idea there was trouble brewing when he took over the running of the local pub.

Charles Ellis took over The Crown at Kempsey on Wednesday, November 1 - but during his first 10 days it's been water pumps not beer pumps, which have been flowing.

The popular watering hole has twice been flooded, but Mr Ellis, who also runs the Red Lion at Powick, is refusing to let the freak weather dampen his spirits.

By Thursday, the cellar and skittle alley were flooded. When the water levels went down that weekend Mr Ellis was able to wash out and dry the cellar by Sunday. But the heavy rains that followed meant the pub was flooded again by Tuesday.

"The Crown is not known as a pub which gets flooded, but unfortunately the flooding is so high this year," said Mr Ellis.

"It's a bit unfortunate the river's so high and we've had so much rainwater. I've had to be resigned to it. There's nothing I can do."

Mr Ellis is acting as tenant for Enterprise Inns, which bought The Crown from former landlord Ted Goodwin, and which also owns the Red Lion.

"I had a think and looked at the figures and as I live on my own it was another business opportunity which came along at the right time," said Mr Ellis, aged 48.

Before taking over the Red Lion three years ago, Mr Ellis had worked at Metal Box Engineering, having come down from King's Lynn in Norfolk to take up a position as senior projects manager in 1992.

Mr Ellis said The Crown was still open for business.

"The pub itself is dry and we're still selling beer. We've even created a walkway to the door with sandbags!"

River shuttle trains service

SHUTTLE trains should be available to take people across the flooded river, it has been claimed.

County councillor Bob Bullock has come up with the idea of providing a train service from Henwick Holt in St John's to Foregate Street Station in Worcester City centre.

Central Trains has said the idea is worth exploring if Worcester City Council is prepared to back it.

But a senior city council officer has dismissed the suggestion as "not cost-effective".

Coun Bullock pointed out that a similar train service was operated during the last great flood of 1947.

"Anyone with a grain of sense could do it," he said.

Ged Burgess, a spokesman for Central Trains, said the rail operator believed a brand-new transport system could be viable as long as it formed part of the Worcester Transport Plan.

"It would be more appropriate to have a light rail or tram system, however," said Mr Burgess.

He said trams would be capable of running on existing rails.

But Andy Walford, the principal engineer at Worcester City Council, dismissed the suggestions.

"Henwick Holt does not belong to the council and planning permission has been granted for development there," he said.

"There's no platform either, so people would have to climb a stepladder to board a train.

"I'd question whether it's cost effective to provide a new rail system to counter a week's worth of congestion on the roads - after all, the last time we had floods like these was in 1947."

Learn how to protect planet

THE worst floods to hit Worcester since the 1940s may have been caused partly by climate change - and the city council says people ought to learn from the authority how to protect the planet.

The Government has warned that "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide are thought by many scientists to be responsible for raising temperatures and altering weather patterns in Britain.

Gases are released into the atmosphere by car exhausts and from homes.

Worcester City Council says fewer pollutants would be produced if people made their houses more energy-efficient. It wants people to visit its "green" show-home at Fort Royal Hill.

The Energy Home at 17 Fort Royal Hill is open for viewing until mid-December.

Rail closed

The Severn Valley Railway has been forced to close part of its 16-mile route between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, after a section of the track was washed away.

"Torrents of water cascading off the hills above Knowlesands Tunnel, one mile south of Bridgnorth station, created a river through the tunnel and across the track," said Severn Valley Railway marketing manager John Leach.

Mr Leach said trains were being rescheduled to terminate and re-start at Hampton Loade for at least the next two weekends. "Santa trains" would not be affected.