A SIX-MONTH road closure to allow a railway bridge to be replaced came into effect this week - leading locals to blast Network Rail bosses for jeopardising businesses’ trade.

The Chronicle understands the bridge, on Hough Lane, Wombwell, will be removed by workers at some point in the spring but it’s been deemed necessary to close the stretch from Dovecliffe Road to Foundry Gate.

The prolonged period will allow utilities such as gas, electricity and water to be removed from the bridge ahead of it being demolished and reconstructed.

The closure, which came into effect on Monday, will last until June according to Network Rail, although Wombwell Railway Station’s car park remains open, albeit with some slight changes to allow for associated work machinery.
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Jan Bell, from The Bolthole Cafe on Dovecliffe Road, told the Chronicle that trade has already been affected.

“There’s a detour through Wombwell Woods but it’s a terrible road and many of our elderly customers simply refuse to drive there,” she added.

“There’s been no consultation, all we’ve had is a letter.

“Because the bridge has been closed we’ve effectively been cut off from the Wombwell end of our trade. Hoyland customers are able to access the cafe but it’s chaos as they’ve put a huge diversion in place.

“Six months just seems so excessive and we’re worried about our future.”

A diversion - which some people claim has added up to an hour on to their rush hour journeys - is available via Wood Walk, Dearne Valley Parkway, Wath Road, Valley Way, Mayflower Way, Park Street and Church Street.

An alternative route for pedestrians will be available via a new temporary footbridge, accessible from the station’s car park, and a shuttle service will be put on at times when the footbridge is closed. Pedestrians can still get across the bridge for now.

Train services on the Sheffield to Leeds line will be largely unaffected, apart from when the bridge is physically removed later in the process, and buses will be put on for passengers during the weekend in which it’s lifted out.

One Wood Walk resident, who did not wish to be named, added: “It’s been chaotic and to close a road which connects Wombwell to Hoyland for so long is crazy.

“The scenes on Tuesday morning in particular were ridiculous as many had to use Wombwell Woods which is treacherous at the best of times, narrow and the danger has been added to by the closure.

“It’s added about ten miles per day to my journey, but it’s the businesses I fell sorry for as their trade has been halved.

“I appreciate that the work has to be done, but it’s the timescale I can’t get my head around. Network Rail has a lot to answer for.”

A spokesman from Network Rail told the Chronicle that the bridge - built in the Victorian era - had reached the end of its lifespan and required urgent attention.

They added: “We are working closely with Barnsley Council to keep disruption to a minimum. Hough Lane’s bridge was built in 1895 and the original bridge deck from this time is still in place.

“This now needs completely replacing and the new bridge will be stronger, as well as being wider, which will allow the pavements to be wider, improving the bridge for pedestrians.

“Bridges on our network, many of which were built during the Victorian era, can reach the point where major works are needed.

“It’s known as the end of their ‘design life’, meaning that they have to be replaced to continue to provide a safe and reliable railway for passengers.

“Network Rail would like to thank all those impacted for their patience while this vital work takes place.”