A Somerset County Council-led flood protection scheme on the Somerset Levels reached a major milestone today with the installation of a 60-tonne bridge.
Over the course of around three hours this morning, the 16m temporary bridge was lowered into place on the A372, spanning a gap that has been cut into the road at Beer Wall which will eventually be home to two new culverts.
These will allow any flood waters to pass beneath the road rather than over it. As well as protecting the road – which was closed for several weeks last winter due to flooding and then to accommodate emergency pumping – they will pave the way for the Environment Agency to undertake further work to increase capacity of the River Sowy.
The temporary bridge means the road can be reopened until phase two of the scheme in the spring. This will see a total of four culverts put in place and a permanent road reinstated over them. So long as adverse weather does not delay work, it is hoped that the road will be reopened before Christmas.
Councillor John Osman, Chair of the Plan’s Leaders Implementation Group and Leader of Somerset County Council, said: “This is a major milestone for this scheme and it’s fantastic to see the bridge in place. I appreciate that this road closure has been a real headache for some and I thank them for their patience.
“What we have achieved here has been achieved in just a fraction of the time a scheme would usually take. That we have been able to move this so quickly is a testament to the joint-working between many agencies that has characterised the Flood Action Plan.”
The Beer Wall works are one of the schemes being undertaken as part of the multi-agency Flood Action Plan which aims to reduce the likelihood, impact and duration of any future flooding on the Levels and Moors.
Simon White, Business Director, Skanska, said: “Today’s installation of the temporary bridge at Beer Wall was the culmination of nearly six months of hard work by a combined project delivery team of well over 100 people from multiple organisations.
“The completion of this complex piece of engineering means we are on track to reopen the road before Christmas. The work we have completed will now play a significant part in improving flood resilience on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
“The first phase of this project has been delivered in half the time of a traditional construction scheme thanks to great collaboration between the organisations involved and a dedicated site team who have been working round the clock and in challenging conditions.”