Traders say Larbert bridge closure could hit jobs

Traders say business is down with the rail bridge closure on Larbert's Main Street
Traders say business is down with the rail bridge closure on Larbert's Main Street
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Business owners say jobs will be lost thanks to a year-long closure of the rail bridge in Larbert’s Main Street.

Network Rail closed the road at Larbert train station four weeks ago, with the work anticipated to take seven months. However, the expected opening date has already been put back to December.

The closure means motorists have to use Bellsdyke Road to travel between Larbert and Stenhousemuir, causing huge tailbacks.

And local shops say the closure is also affecting business.

Shajaz Ali (33) has owned GKR Costcutter for three years and says takings are down 30 per cent since the bridge closed.

He said: “I’m already looking at having to make staff redundant.

“We rely on passing trade and this work has effectively turned Main Street into a dead end. It’s like a ghost town.

“I’m thankful for the school just now as that gives us a bit of custom but I don’t know how we will cope during the summer holidays.

“I’m gutted, I worked very hard to build up the business and it’s being destroyed.”

Network Rail and contractor Bam Nuttall are working to upgrade the bridge and last week admitted it will take longer than anticipated after workers discovered the abutments that hold up the bridge were crumbling and dangerous.

Kieron Paterson owns Larbert Pharmacy and claims there has been a lack of communication. He said he didn’t know the opening date had been pushed back until contacted by The Falkirk Herald.

He said: “Network Rail sent us a letter with the wrong start date for the work. We didn’t know it was happening until the work was about to begin so couldn’t prepare.

“We hired a new pharmacist for the shop which we maybe wouldn’t have done had we known about this.

“I’m actually taking legal advice just now to see if there is anything we can do to make Network Rail responsible.”

Mr Paterson also claims Network Rail told him they would install parking spaces at the Stenhousemuir side of the bridge to allow customers to park and walk, but these have not materialised.

Representatives of Network Rail attended a meeting of Larbert, Stenhousemuir and Torwood Community Council and said the work was essential.

Chairman Eric Appelbe agrees the bridge desperately needed replaced but said the work was ripping the heart out of Larbert.

“We know this is essential, the work has been needed for a long time. But the community is suffering.

“Already traffic in Larbert is a huge issue and Main Street closing has made things much worse.

“It’s bad for residents to have time added on to every journey, but it’s the businesses that are really suffering.

“I still walk down to Main Street to get my papers and support local business and I hope others will too.

“They are essential to the village and we can’t lose them forever because of these road works.”

A Network Rail spokesman said the timescale for delivering the new bridges at Larbert has been revised due to additional engineering work being identified on site.

He added: “We have begun communicating those new timescales to the community over the course of the last week.

“Our engineers will make every effort to deliver the new structures as quickly as possible and will look at what more we can do to reduce the impact.”