TRADERS say a three months long road closure in Atherton could “devastate” businesses.
Train infra-structure company Network Rail must replace a historic road bridge over the Wigan/Manchester line after cracks were discovered by engineers.
The technically challenging operation to replace the three-span road bridge just east of Atherton Station will close the main Bolton Road through the town for THREE MONTHS from September 13 and cancel some train services.
But ward councillors and shop keepers are furious that the council have decided against routing through traffic around the obstruction via neighbouring Upton Road railway bridge and then Marlborough Road just a matter of hundreds of yards away.
Instead they have drawn up a long diversion through Westhoughton which could add “up to an hour” to journeys as well as isolating shops and ending all their passing trade ”on the brink of Christmas.”
Council highways chiefs say that they have taken the “utmost care” with the scheme but causing “major disruption” was unavoidable.
But Atherton’s Independent councillors Norman Bradbury and Bob Splaine are demanding a re-think before the closure causes “total chaos and financial hardship.”
Coun Bradbury said: “The local councillors weren’t involved, or consulted about the road closure which is going to effect the whole community. A more sensible solution would have been to impose a weight restriction on Marlborough Road, and to put a sign “for residents only.”
The owner of the Cost Cutter supermarket just yards from the bridge, Mrs Vasanti Jesani said: “We depend on passing trade for a significant amount of our business and I am very worried because closing the road is going to have a tremendous affect at a time when all businesses are finding things difficult ... it’s going to be devastating”.
Brown Sugar hair salon owner Amanda Nelson said that the shops are prepared for disruption because the bridge needs repairing – but was angry the through traffic would not now be able to use Marlborough Road.
Council head of infra-structure Mark Tilley said: “We have no choice but to close the road. Since early in the year, we have discussed the issue widely, including with all the emergency services and discussions are still ongoing with Network Rail, Transport for Greater Manchester and operators regarding bus services”.