Businesses speak out over impact of bridge closure

The closure of the Esk Bridge has had “a huge impact” on businesses in the Longtown area. Businesses that rely on customers using the bridge, or that use the bridge themselves, have found that the closure has led to a financial hit. The Esk Bridge has re-opened to pedestrians and cars but restrictions remain in place for heavy goods vehicles.

Robert Little, owner of Robert Little Garages, said: “It has massively impacted on the business, we have lost more than 50 per cent of our fuel sales. “If I didn’t have other things going on, I think the business would have shut. “I think it will have done harm to the business for years to come.”

It is a main route used by hauliers crossing into Scotland so for businesses such as garages, truck stops, and cafes, there has been a significant drop in trade as drivers pick up new routines along the new route. The wagons have been diverted down the motorway which takes them miles away from Longtown. Richard Armstrong, owner of R E Armstrong Haulage, said: “It’s had a huge impact in that to get to the other side of the Esk Bridge now, it’s a 20 minute drive.

We’ve got to go to junction 44 back up to Gretna and back across to get on the A7 again. “At the moment, the bulk of our work is up in that direction so there’s the financial impact which will be at least GBP1,000 per week. “It’s using 20 minutes driving time every time I have to go around, which obviously has an impact on the amount of loads you can do every week.

“There will be all sorts of hidden costs that we haven’t quite clicked onto yet.” When it was announced that the bridge would be closed for repairs, it was accepted that it was necessary but it would still have an impact. As time stretched on, people grew frustrated.

“When the work needed to be done, it was like a necessary evil,” said Mr Little. “I didn’t want to have any disruption and I know how delicate this business is with the passing trade but I did resign myself to the fact that surely it’s only going to be for a couple of weeks. “We all understand that this type of work does need to be done. “Fast forward nine months and it is absolutely infuriating that it can have got to this point but not only the fact that it has got to nine months, it has got to nine months and there is no end in sight.”

A spokesman for Connect Roads, which is conducting repairs, said: “We apologise for any delays which have been encountered and would like to reassure the public that we are committed to carrying out the repairs and lifting the travel restrictions as soon as it is safe and permitted to do so.

“The health and safety of the public and our workforce is always our primary concern and as such, all repairs will be carried out responsibly and in line with Balfour Beatty’s Covid-19 site operating procedures.”