FURIOUS retailers have slammed Network Rail’s timing to close a major road into Romsey for bridge reconstruction.

At Wednesday night’s meeting of Romsey Forum, traders demanded to know why Network Rail couldn’t do the work on the Ashfield Bridge in the spring or summer instead of September to December.

Simon Troke from Aroma who is the chairman of Romsey Retailers blasted the plans: “The timing is the worst possible. This is the start of our Christmas run-up. You might as well say ‘Romsey is shut’ during the work because you are basically telling people not to come here.

“Will I be compensated if my business closes? No I won’t. We are all furious.

“Putting leaflets through people’s doors is not good enough and we should have been notified long ago. ”

Network Rail’s John Holdway said October had been chosen for the work to raise the height of the bridge to accommodate new, taller freight containers because rail companies see the line as a main holiday route between May and September.

“We’d have liked to have done the work in the summer but are restricted. Road closures have to be fitted around that. Knocking down a bridge takes time,” he said.

Mr Troke went on to attack the planned southern diversionary route around the road closure, which starts on October 3 and is due to finish on December 5.

“Whoever planned the diversion is not there as a shopper,” said Mr Troke. However, Test Valley’s senior transport engineer Ray Alborough told the Forum that the proposed official diversion route, which takes in the A35 in Southampton, the A36 at Totton and Ower and the A3090 at Romsey’s Pauncefoot Hill, was chosen because it could accommodate all drivers including learners who are banned from motorways.

He added that local people were likely to use Romsey’s Botley Road to avoid the bridge closure.

He also pointed out that while the Ashfield bridge is being rebuilt, the Broadlands Estate was planning to repair the Mile Wall alongside the A27 and Hampshire County Council has scheduled verge work too. Romsey’s Waitrose store manager Steve Corbett said: “The choice to do the work at this time is commercial suicide and I have never known such poor publicity about it,”

Mr Corbett, is worried that Alma Road might be closed for resurfacing work at the same time.

Network Rail has promised to help promote Romsey’s businesses during the work by leaflet drops and signing.

Mr Holdway also admitted no study had been carried on possible economic impacts the work will have on the town, when grilled by traders.