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West Mills canal bridge opened up...but just for the day

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Trust says failed bridge expected to be fixed "early November"

THERE was a reprieve for stranded boaters this week after a bridge in Newbury was temporarily lifted to allow boats to pass through.

The hydraulically-operated West Mills swing bridge on the Kennet and Avon Canal broke down on September 28, leaving boaters stranded.

Some of the boat users had been left stuck behind the bridge without access to hot water for two weeks.

While engineers assessed the “significant” damage to the bridge, a crane was brought in to temporarily raise it on Monday morning, allowing all boaters to move forward on their way along the canal.

According to the Canal and River Trust a team of volunteers was on site to help the boats pass through, but it has now been closed again to canal traffic.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the trust responsible for the nation’s waterways confirmed it will likely reopen by “early November”.

Waterway manager Mark Evans said: “I’m really sorry to everyone who’s been inconvenienced by this.

“We lifted the bridge [on Monday], so boaters should now all be on their way.

“The part of the bridge that’s broken is now with specialist engineers, who are still in the process of determining how long it’ll take to fix. We really appreciate everyone’s patience while we get this sorted.”

The bridge was due for refurbishment in January but broke down earlier than expected, the trust said.

Mr Evans added: “As the charity that looks after the canals, we do have staff regularly checking the bridges, locks, aqueducts and tunnels to make sure they’re working and safe to use, but unfortunately some things are difficult to predict and working with a 200-year old canal will always present challenges.

“Thankfully unplanned stoppages like this one are fairly rare and most people are pretty understanding when things don’t go according to plan.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the canal running as smoothly as possible.”

Kier Construction has since been engaged in the repair of the bridge which the trust said would take some weeks.

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