THE leader of Hampshire County Council (HCC) has publicly called on the government to stump up £25m for repairs to keep traffic flowing unhindered over a key river crossing between the New Forest and Southampton.
Redbridge causeway carries the A35 over the River Test at Totton, conveying 60,000 vehicles every day as well as the Southampton to Romsey railway line.
The concrete structures are starting to crumble and HCC says that to avoid safety weight restrictions it requires major investment – which the council’s Conservative leader, Cllr Roy Perry has urged the government to provide or risk damage to the local economy and roads.
Cllr Perry warned: “It is a key link between the port of Southampton and the western side of Southampton Water, and therefore essential not only to the local economy of the south but also import and export business affecting the whole of the UK.”
He added: “The exceptional cost of repair to the causeway could have a very serious impact on our ability to fund other roadworks.”
On Tuesday, however, a response to the A&T by a Department for Transport spokesperson cast doubt on whether more money would be forthcoming.
She said: “We are giving Hampshire County Council over £180m between 2015 and 2021 to upgrade and maintain the local highway infrastructure for which they are responsible.
“It is for Hampshire to prioritise how this funding is used.”
HCC has already agreed to “underwrite” £8.4m of urgent repairs in the hope the government will refund it afterwards. The council’s cabinet member for highways, Cllr Rob Humby, raised the issue of government funding then too.
Now he has been backed by his leader, Cllr Perry, who added: “The bridges that form Redbridge causeway are now in urgent need of repair, and as such they pose a major risk to the operation of the port and its links to the rest of the country.
“The harsh marine environment has accelerated the deterioration of these concrete bridges and repairs are essential if weight restrictions and lane closures are to be avoided in the future.
“Any disruption of traffic onto the causeway is bound to impact the adjacent access on to the M271.”
Cllr Perry described the route as a “nationally important piece of transport infrastructure” which would become even more important “in light of the possible impacts of Brexit”.
Previously the situation was criticised by Liberal Democrat Cllr David Harrison, from Totton, who said the lack of a government contribution was “disgraceful”. He predicted more potholes and accidents from funding having to be diverted from maintenance.
The £8.4m refurbishment work on the viaduct will involve extensive concrete repairs and the installation of a cathodic protection system to prevent corrosion in the columns and other supports.
Earlier this year there were several weekends of overnight closures as £2m was spent on replacing joints in the viaduct section to stop water leaking into the concrete supports underneath.