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Volume 448: debated on Thursday 6 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the problems with the bridge on the slip road between the M56 and the A556 near Altrincham in Cheshire were first identified; how long the exploratory work has taken; and what estimate he has made of the likely date for the full reopening of the slip road. (82309)

The Highways Agency first became aware of deficiencies in the bridge carrying the westbound exit sliproad at Junction 7 of the M56 motorway, following an assessment in 2001. This resulted in the installation of temporary supports and loading restrictions. Since 2001, the Agency has undertaken further detailed investigatory works to confirm the problem and determine the remedial solution required.

The latest phase in the investigatory work, undertaken between late February and mid June 2006, was to confirm the true extent of the defects and to refine the methods of working, in advance of the planned main refurbishment scheme. During these additional investigations, unexpected structural defects in the bridge were identified. As a result, traffic using the sliproad will continue to be restricted to a single lane, with a 40mph speed limit, for safety reasons. Short-term measures, and options for a permanent solution, are under consideration, and the timing of the resulting works will be subject to the scale of the work required and the availability of funding.