READING Bridge will be closed for up to six weeks as gas company SGN carries out upgrades.
The company said the essential work will ensure the town receives a “continued and reliable gas supply for many years to come.”
A spokesman from SGN said: “We’re working closely with UK government and public health bodies to make sure we carry out our project in line with all current coronavirus safety guidance.
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“In March, we needed to pause all but emergency and safety-critical work on our network.
“As lockdown restrictions now begin to ease, we’re restarting some of our paused operations where it’s now safe to do so.”
In agreement with Reading Borough Council, the project will start on Monday (June 29) and last approximately six weeks.
The bridge on George Street will be closed for safety.
Engineers will be working to replace two strategic gas mains across Reading Bridge.
The spokesman added: “This work is vital in maintaining the integrity of our network and needs to be completed during the summer months when demand on the gas network is lower.
“You may be aware that SGN are currently working on the roundabout south side of the bridge – this is in preparation for the work required on the bridge. “
Access to George Street will be from the north side of the bridge via the B3345, with a signed diversion in place, while across the bridge will be maintained for pedestrians and cyclists.
To support social distancing guidelines, there will be two pedestrian walkways and two cycle paths across the bridge, and each pathway/cycleway will be clearly signposted with the direction of traffic flow.
There are no planned interruptions to local gas supplies.
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SGN said it has extra safety precautions in place to protect customers and colleagues during the pandemic.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s lead member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said: “The closure of Reading Bridge, which is a key route across the town and the wider region, will of course bring significant disruption to road users.
“It is essential however that access is maintained throughout for both pedestrians and cyclists and I am pleased that, following council discussions with SGN, two-way access will be maintained for both.
“It is also important to note that all road markings, including the new cycle lanes recently introduced, will be fully reinstated by SGN.
“Everybody will appreciate the need for gas mains to be replaced and it is regrettable the closure needs to take place now as shops and commuters begin to return. We appreciate that the work could not have taken place earlier in the pandemic when roads were even quieter as it is important SGN protected their keyworkers.”
He added that Reading’s roads remain quieter than usual, and that the council would rather this closure happen now, than when Reading’s roads return to greater capacity.
SGN’s working hours will be 7am to 7pm for seven days a week, and the council is hopeful they are able to complete the project even quicker.
Mr Page added: “Reading Borough Council also intends to use the opportunity afforded by the SGN road closure to carry out localised carriageway repairs on the north side of Reading Bridge, as well as works to the footway slabs being lifted by SGN.”