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Engineer defends Hungerford bridge design

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A WEST Berkshire Council engineer has defended a decision to build a high-arching footbridge, branded “diabolical” by critics, in the centre of Hungerford. The chief engineer for the district council, Miles Roberts, explained to the town meeting last Thursday the council's decision to make a canal crossing on Bridge Street higher than the arch of the existing one. He favoured this solution rather than building a lower, less imposing bridge that would move out of the way of passing boats. He said that a moving bridge would cost twice as much as a fixed one and would also cost a lot more to maintain. “British Waterways would not support a swing bridge on the basis of delays to boat users,” he said. “Their records show that a swing bridge would be open between 30 and 40 times a day at the height of the boating season and that would equate to four to five hours of delays for pedestrians. “On one of the other canals that British Waterways operates, someone's limb was severed by a swing bridge and they are also hazardous to visually impaired people.” He added that a moving bridge would cause a lot of noise, with mechanical parts and the warning signals that would have to be installed to warn pedestrians when it was moving. One member of the public who attended the meeting said that the bridge would be “diabolical” for the town. Mr Roberts conceded that it was a controversial proposal but said that the safety problems of the current bridge needed to be addressed. District councillor David Holtby (Con, Hungerford) said that the problems on the bridge were a “real live safety issue” and could not be ignored. “There will not be a perfect solution that will suit everyone in Hungerford,” he said. “There will definitely be an open presentation and everyone will be able to have their say.” Mr Roberts said that an architectural consultant had been appointed to see what would best suit the town and it would be about six weeks before proposed plans for the bridge were drawn up for people to see and comment on. The district council allocated £165,000 to design a bridge over the Kennet and Avon Canal in its budget for the forthcoming year.

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