Traders who are losing business and home owners who have been ‘marooned’ by road closures caused by the shutting of Dauntsey Lock railway bridge are calling for compensation.
Business people held a meeting on Monday evening to protest about the decision to close three narrow roads that had been used as rat runs by drivers since the bridge was shut on March 8 for five months of work.
Bowd’s Lane, Trow Lane and the road from Grittleton to Tockenham Wick were closed at the end of last week after residents complained about road safety.
But the closure has hit businesses such as Pound Farm Shop in Lyneham, which is run by Tim Webb.
He said: “My business at the weekend was down by 50 per cent because a lot of our customers come from villages on the other side of the closures and people are not going to drive 20 miles in each direction to come here.
“I have four part-time staff and I may have to think about reducing this number. We raised the issue of compensation with councillor Allison Bucknell.”
Vet Samantha Taylor, 34, who lives in Bradenstock with her husband, said the closures have turned her five-minute journey to take her two children to nursery into a half-hour trip each way.
She said: “This means I lose work time or I have to pay for an additional childcare. As I work hard part-time the margins are small and it is not dramatic of me to say that the additional travel caused by the closures means my business may fold.”
On Monday she tried to use one of the closed lanes to reach her house but was turned back by a policeman.
She said: “I could see my house but because I am not a resident of one of the closed roads I was not allowed to go down there. I think people who live nearby should be given special dispensation to use the lanes.”
Coun Bucknell, who represents Lyneham on Wiltshire Council, said there was no easy answer. She said: “I know people are frustrated by the extra road closures and the only way forward may be for them to get compensation from Network Rail, but I think they would have to do this out of kindness rather than as a matter of law.”
North Wiltshire MP James Gray was due to meet Network Rail bosses yesterday to talk about the problem and promised to raise the issue of compensation.
The road closures were sanctioned by Wiltshire Council’s principal traffic engineer Alister Storey after complaints about speeding traffic down the narrow lanes. Police are now able to enforce the closures.
The closure of Dauntsey Lock bridge is part of essential works to provide an electric rail service from London Paddington to Bristol by 2016.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Electrifying the Great Western Main Line will improve the journeys of millions of people.
“We sympathise with local businesses but unfortunately there is no legal basis for a claim for compensation.
"The electrification of the Great Western is a Government-funded programme and it is therefore vital that we deliver the work as efficiently as possible.”