ROYAL Wootton Bassett expects to breathes a sigh of relief as the Bath Road bridge, closed for six months as part of a multi-billion pound rail network electrification project, reopens to traffic tonight.
The closure was supposed to end a month ago but Network Rail said it was held back by engineering challenges.
“I think it’s a huge boost for the town that it’s finally done,” said town councillor Paul Heaphy, who lives along the diversion route in Marlborough Road.
“It will be interesting to see the dynamic of the town going back to what it was a couple of years ago.”
He explained drivers had got used to using different routes, rat runs had developed and the value of people’s houses in affected parts of the town had changed.
But he said: “I think residents are quite pleased that it’s going back to normal, which is great. It is just that our concern now is about what is going to happen to the temporary road.”
The link road, nicknamed '£3.2 Billion Street' by locals, was opened between the A3102 and Marlborough Road early last year to take diverted traffic while the Broad Town bridge was upgraded.
It was intended to prevent motorists having to make a 35-mile diversion and was kept open when work started on the Bath Road and Hunts Mill bridges last October.
“The only disappointing thing is Oxford University is now applying to keep the road as an agricultural land and we just think, for a number of reasons, that it isn’t fit for purpose,” said Mr Heaphy. The town council has objected to the bid.
Once the road was gated it would no longer be in general use, but there was concern that at some point in the future there might be an application for houses on the site, he explained.
The university, which owns the land, has asked Wiltshire Council for planning permission to keep the link road and install gates so farmers working the land bordering it don’t have to drive their agricultural vehicles through the centre of the town.
Bath Road bridge is one of several in the area being adapted ready for the electrification of the Great Western route from London Paddington. The challenge at Hunts Mill is to lower the track to make additional space for overhead power lines.
Work is also being carried out under the Chaddington Lane bridge on May 27 and 28 and again in July.
The work is needed so the line can eventually accommodate a fleet of longer, faster and quieter electric trains.