NETWORK Rail must take immediate steps to correct the 'flawed design' of a new bridge it has built over the Bristol to Taunton main line in Huntworth, near Bridgwater, the local MP has warned.

Ian Liddell-Grainger says the structure must be either replaced or adapted so all types of traffic can use it – even if this means yet more inconvenience for local people.

The bridge carries a minor road from Huntworth to Burrowbridge over the line and was installed to replace a time-expired structure.

But since it opened last month Mr Liddell-Grainger said it has been discovered that the gradient in the centre is so steep that low loaders and other similar vehicles cannot cross without bottoming out.

Somerset County Council is reportedly refusing to sign off the scheme and will not formally adopt the bridge in its present form as part of the highway.

Now Mr Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, says the Government must get involved to ensure Network Rail corrects a situation which is entirely of its own making.

“That road may be a minor one but as we saw during the floods five years ago it is a strategic route for getting machinery and equipment in to the local pumping station,” he said.

“We simply cannot be left with a situation where only light vehicles can use the bridge.

“It’s Network Rail’s mistake and it’s their responsibility to correct it.

“People in the area have had to put up with weeks of road closures and diversions while this work has been going on and I sympathise with them if they have to be subjected to more.

“But Network Rail cannot be allowed to get away with doing half a job.”

At North Petherton Town Council's meeting on Tuesday night, Cllr Julian Taylor, who has long been campaigning for the bridge to be sorted, raised the issue.

Julian Taylor said: “Everyone was relieved when the bridge went up but the situation has developed.

“The county council has said the bridge has not been signed off by the highways department.

“This is quite serious. This was discovered by a local carnival club who cannot get their cart over the bridge as there is a huge dip after a steep gradient.

“This has had serious implications for two town carnival clubs and for heavy goods vehicles.

“Farm machinery has also struggled to get over the bridge. This is a fairly serious situation.

“I have written to the chief executive of Somerset County Council to explain this situation as this has implications for our carnival clubs, businesses and farmers but I have yet to receive a response.

“I don’t want to say that I told you so but we did say to Network Rail that this sort of traffic would be coming up here.”

Cllr Bill Revans, added: “Pat Flaherty, chief executive of Somerset County Council, went out and looked at the bridge.

“We were assured by Network Rail and Somerset County Council that there would be the same profile as before but we have somehow be misled but hopefully we can find a solution.”

A spokesman for SCC said: “The Huntworth Overbridge was, and will remain, a Network Rail structure. "Our role, as the highways authority, is to ensure the road over it is safe for use.

"Following the recent replacement we assessed the site and agreed it was safe to open the road. "However, as is normal with any new piece of infrastructure, we will only adopt the road when we are satisfied it meets certain standards.

"We are aware of some concerns raised by the community and are keen to see these resolved as quickly as possible.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We designed, built and opened the new bridge at Huntworth in line with the appropriate highway legislation. This singe track bridge is safe and suitable for all vehicles that are compliant with the Road Vehicle Regulations Act (1986) under 40 tonnes.

“When we rebuilt the bridge this year we increased the weight limit to 40 tonnes to accommodate local farm vehicles and emergency service vehicles mindful of the risk of flood in the local area, and the experience the community had during the last floods. However, this bridge is not suitable for abnormal loads.”

“During the consultation prior to construction of the bridge we received no requests to build the bridge in a way which would additionally accommodate abnormal loads outside the requirements of the standard Road Vehicle Regulations Act or Highways legislation.”