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Bristol rail electrification project causing chaos in Wiltshire

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 10, 2014

By TRISTAN CORK

  • Residents from Dauntsey Lock – among them farmer Phil Potter – are unhappy with Network Rail over a 22-week road closure PICTURE: CLARE GREEN

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Residents in the Wiltshire village of Dauntsey came together for what could be the last time in months over the weekend, before the only bridge over the railway which divides them is closed.

People living on the north-west side of the Great Western mainline – in Dauntsey Green – will now have to face, officially at least, a 25-mile detour to reach Dauntsey Lock on the south-east side of the railway.

The bridge is being closed, removed and raised to allow the electrification work which will see faster and more reliable trains serving the West Country in a few years' time.

But the £1 billion project is causing major disruption as it rolls west, with historic bridges too low to cope with the extra electrification systems.

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In Dauntsey, the work means the closure of the B4069 road between Chippenham and Lyneham, and is now splitting the village in two, according to parish council chairwoman Ellen Blacker.

The official diversion for cross-country traffic and heavy lorries would take drivers another 25 miles around Chippenham and Calne, but there are narrow country lanes in between Dauntsey and nearby hamlets of Tockenham and Grittenham which will be used by locals, said Mrs Blacker.

After traffic chaos and widespread damage in the lanes around Badminton, 20 miles to the west, when a main road railway bridge was closed, council chiefs have decided to create a one-way system in the country lanes around Dauntsey.

Communities affected by the bridge closures have said it has hit pubs, shops and other businesses badly, especially in villages around the Badminton Overbridge at Acton Turville, on the South Gloucestershire-Wiltshire border, which was due to be completed in December, but has over-run by four months after bats were discovered roosting under the bridge.

Now, a Network Rail spokeswoman has reassured worried residents that work to complete both the Badminton Overbridge and nearby Fosse Bridge, between Acton Turville and Luckington, is still on target to be completed in mid to late April – well before the Badminton Horse Trials.

She also confirmed that speculation about the discovery of both bats and a protected species of newt at the School Hill railway bridge in Brinkworth, near Royal Wootton Bassett, was correct and that it has meant the bridge work and road closure will now be delayed until later t his year.

"Newts and bats were found during our regular environmental surveys and we are currently working with Natural England to seek the relevant licence," she said. "We are working towards starting the work this autumn instead."

Network Rail has also confirmed that the responsibility for a robust series of diversion signs around the Dauntsey Lock bridge closure, which began on Saturday, lies with Wiltshire Council.

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