DRIVERS in Swindon are facing more frustration after it was revealed the White Hart roundabout will be closed until mid-December.
The major route has been shut to traffic since August 16 after serious defects in the road were found during a major project costing £30m.
The closure was originally scheduled to last 12 weeks until November – but another unexpected problem means the roundabout won’t reopen until the end of 2021 at the earliest.
Contractor Osborne has now discovered the levels of groundwater were much higher than expected underneath the road, which has weakened the underlying clay propping up the base.
The company says this will add four weeks to the work and road users have voiced their anger on the Adver’s Facebook page.
Karen Adolpho-Bagley said: “This is ridiculous. The traffic in Stratton is just stupid at the moment and will get worse as the winter months come in as more people drive to drop kids off.”
Monique Demczak Gale said: “Swindon is an absolute joke to drive round at the moment.”
Sandra Hollands said: “Nothing new, it will be more than a month.”
Tatyana Popova said: “We knew that would happen, didn’t we? The question is – is blocking all Swindon roads deliberate?”
Francis Taylor said: “The council always come up with excuses. Don’t they keep any records of previous works?”
The council says the extra work is being paid for out of contingency funding for the overall scheme. Osborne has already dug down almost a metre beneath the surface to build a new structure for the road base.
The nature of the work means it is not safe to keep the roundabout open to through traffic, although it is accessible for emergency services.
The latest setback comes on top of drastically overrunning roadworks in Mead Way – closed since March 2020 – and the Moonrakers junction.
Labour councillor Jim Robbins said: “Unfortunately, I’m not surprised at all. It appears that every time there are major roadworks, something comes along.
“We’ve seen it repeated throughout the town, at Greenbridge, at Mead Way, at the Moonrakers, and now at the White Hart.
“It seems that the way that the highway department works, they clearly don’t have a good understanding of what’s going on on our roads. And there’s always a surprise that comes along and delays the project.”
When asked if he believes the contractor will meet the new deadline, he said: “Anyone who takes an estimate from the highways department knows to add on at least double. The one thing you know about the highways department is that they miss their deadlines.
“I’m really disappointed that these issues keep happening. That’s why the scrutiny committee will be using one of their meetings in October, making it all about roadworks.
“We really need to get to the bottom of why these delays keep happening.”
Road traffic is still open to use the junction to leave the A419 southbound to join the A420 eastbound, or to leave the A420 westbound to join the A419 southbound only.
This has allowed the contractor to maintain access to St Margaret’s Retail Park, Sainsbury’s, the Truck Stop, and other businesses on the A420.
The council reminded people yesterday that businesses in the area remain open.
Deputy council leader Gary Sumner, the cabinet member for strategic infrastructure, transport and planning, said: “It is only when you get right underneath the surface that you begin to get the full picture of what is going on and the work at White Hart is proving to be a case in point.
“Although the extent of the problem with the groundwater softening the clay undersoil was unexpected, we have been quick to identify a solution to redesign the scheme and this means we can rebuild the junction and be confident it will be fit to last for decades to come.
“We anticipate the extra work could take four weeks, but our contractor is working six days a week, 12 hours a day, so will be doing everything possible to claw back that time.
“I would like to remind residents that the businesses in St Margaret’s Retail Park and Sainsbury’s remain open throughout this work and are easily accessible via the diversion route in place.
“I know this current closure is causing major inconvenience to local residents, nearby businesses and motorists who use the junction, but it is crucial we get this major junction upgrade finished and ensure that it is built to last.
“We continue to work closely with our contractors to reduce the impact of highways schemes on our residents.”