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Regular delays caused by lorries hitting a low bridge on the A5 in the Midlands are causing hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to the economy, a new report suggests.
In the five years to last September, the bridge – which has been dubbed one of Britain’s most-bashed – was struck 88 times resulting in hours of snarl-ups and 246 trains delayed.
A scheme that will improve things was recently reluctantly approved, despite fears it could cause ‘catastrophic’ traffic issues. It will see the road below the railway bridge on the single carriageway just outside Hinckley lowered.
New research by regional transport group Midlands Connect suggests the bridge strikes have cost businesses, commuters, and residents more than 4,400 hours of delays with huge financial impact for the economy each year. It is being used as evidence for upgrades on what it says is a “road of national importance”.
The Midlands Connect analysis suggests delays on the A5 and other key routes in Nuneaton and Hinckley on just four occasions in 2019 – which needed an emergency service response – cost the economy an estimated £126,000.
It said: “The true figure will also be significantly higher as this figure doesn’t account for the cost of journeys diverted onto other roads in the area and across the Midlands, or journeys cancelled due to the disruption.”
The estimates are based on the lost value of time for train passengers, cars, vans, and HGVs for business, commuting and leisure journeys to the wider economy.
A spokesman said: “The A5 sits at the heart of the so-called 'Logistics Golden Triangle' and is home to 2.89 million people and 1.32 million jobs, with an economic output of £22 billion.
“However, with a further 524 hectares of employment land and 1,646,742 sqm of floorspace developed as part of local plans, and around 111,000 new homes planned and 190,000 new jobs forecasted by 2031, it is necessary to improve the A5 to ensure it can support such growth.”
Constituency MP Dr Luke Evans said: “Since I was elected the Watling Street bridge has been consistently one of the 10 most frequently hit bridges in the UK, and at one stage was dubbed ‘the most bashed bridge in Britain’.
“Every time it is struck it causes huge disruption, delays and diversions, costing the taxpayers both time and money.
“I have and will continue to raise this issue to get it resolved, and I am pleased a recent planning application may go some way towards solving the problem by lowering the road under the bridge. This is a welcome solution to an issue that has blighted our community for too long.
“I recently met with Roads Minister Richard Holden to – yet again – discuss ways to improve the A5 and unlock our area’s full potential.
“I’ll continue to work with Midlands Connect to reiterate the strategic and economic importance of our region.”
Councillor Stuart Bray, Leader of Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council and a leading member of the A5 Partnership said: “The impact of these bridge strikes is felt across the Midlands in terms of disruption, delay and ultimately economic cost when this happens.
“It also causes untold misery to local businesses and residents in Hinckley and Bosworth. Further significant investment in this part of the A5 corridor is therefore crucial, and with the support of partners we will continue to campaign for more investment in the A5.”
Councillor Ozzy O'Shea, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “While we don't manage and maintain the A5, the implications of bridge strikes are hugely significant as traffic is diverted on to our local road network and this evidence helps us to better understand the situation.
“It's time to fix this problem given this is one of the busiest routes through the county and crucial to the region's logistics and economy.”
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