Letter to the Editor: It is with extreme interest that I read of the news reports in both The Forester and the Forest Review, stating that the Gloucester to Chepstow railway line is to be closed for three weeks.
It is stated that Network Rail are in the process of investing £25 million in a Severn Estuary Resilience Programme, which aims to improve the resilience of the “vital” link between South Wales and England for passengers and freight.
Last year between the end of July and the beginning of September, Network Rail closed this line for a six week period to undertake engineering operations. A Public Information Session was held at Awre Village Hall, which I attended representing Westbury-on-Severn Parish Council, which has repeatedly expressed concerns as to the safety issues surrounding Jordan Hill railway bridge, where the line crosses the A48 at Westbury. I took the opportunity of discussing these concerns with Network Rail staff present and I was later informed that Network Rail would take some action regarding the scrub growth, to improve visibility of oncoming traffic, on the embankment at this site during the closure period. September arrived and unfortunately nothing had been attempted to redress this problem.
I contacted Network Rail again, expressing concerns that high vehicles have no option but to enter the centre of the road at this point in order to pass under the arched bridge, this being particularly so for double decker buses and high HGV’s.
The parish council has made frequent representations, over many years, to Gloucestershire County Highways, requesting improved signage, road markings and a reduction in the speed limit at this point, to which the authority has acknowledged these measures would improve road safety. GCC Highways have also approached Network Rail, raising concerns about poor visibility, but no cooperation has been attained.
Upon approaching Network Rail, yet again, with regard to the impending line closure and taking the opportunity to resolve some of the issues at this dangerous site, Network Rail stated, “they had no intention of undertaking any scrub clearance, as they consider this would increase the speed of the traffic approaching the bridge”.
As many users of the A48 will agree, this is a site of frequent collisions and shunts, on some occasions a high vehicle has collided with the bridge structure. Many of these incidents cause major holdups and diversions. Unfortunately Gloucestershire Police only record incidents resulting in injuries and/or fatalities, fortunately to date these have not been too common, but it is feared to become increasingly likely.
Residents living close to this site have received damage to their property, caused by vehicles leaving the road in order to avoid other vehicles.
The state of the warning road signs placed on the approaches to the bridge also bear witness to these events.
Westbury Parish Council are extremely concerned as is the Forest of Dean Road Safety Group, that at some point in time, there will be a serious accident at this site, arising in life changing injuries or in the worst scenario a fatality.
Westbury Parish Council once again appeals to Network Rail, please re-evaluate your interests at this site and work with Gloucestershire Highways to improve the dangerous conditions presented at this bridge.
Cllr Simon Phelps, Chair, Westbury-on-Severn Parish Council