Published: 10:35, 17 November 2020
| Updated: 10:37, 17 November 2020
Sandwich Toll Bridge over the River Stour was removed in September to allow for essential maintenance having suffered hydraulic and control issues since December 2018.
The major works, expected to take 11 weeks, had originally been intended to start in February, ahead of the planned Open Golf, but were postponed due to the Southern Water works on the A256.
The pandemic posed another problem meaning works were then planned for September.
This was objected to by traders who felt shutting off the key access route in the lead up to Christmas would impact their businesses. Nevertheless, works pressed on.
The programme of essential work, which includes servicing and replacing mechanical and electrical components, has cotinued during the second lockdown and is now nearing completion.
KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: "Currently Kent Highways remain on track to have work completed by early December.
“The fully-serviced bridge will shortly be reinstated, though it will require thorough testing before the road can be reopened.
“These essential repairs to the bridge deck have seen the mechanical and electrical components replaced as well as cleaning and repainting the bridge deck.
“We’re making upgrades to the swing bridge operation on site together with repairs to the road.”
The authority's good time keeping has been welcomed by the town's mayor who is keen to see businesses get back on their feet following both the closure and second lockdown.
Cllr Paul Graeme said: “I am so pleased to learn from KCC that the Toll Bridge project is on schedule.
"When installed and is fully running it will enable the business in Sandwich to plan ahead for the run up to what I am sure will be a very successful Christmas period.
"The residents to the north of the River, in particular, will then be able to move freely into Sandwich.
"Can I thank you all for your patience and understanding during this essential repair project.”
The history of Sandwich Tollbridge
Chairman of Sandwich Local History Society John Hennessy has given a brief history of the bridge which dates back to the 18th century.
He said: "People have always wanted to travel between Sandwich and Thanet.
"When Thanet was still an island, separated by the Wantsum Channel the only way to do this was by ferry.
"This ferry service carried on until 1755 but the crossing was inconvenient, difficult and often dangerous.
"The Mayor and people of Sandwich petitioned Parliament for a Bill to allow the construction of a bridge across the Stour to improve the situation. This first bridge was paid for, partly by public subscription and partly by the Corporation of Sandwich who granted £600 towards the total cost of £1,000.
"Some specific conditions were laid down by Parliament including that part of the floor of the said bridge shall be made in such a manner that the same be occasionally drawn up from time to time so that vessels with their masts and sails may pass as often as they have occasion… and that the middle arch shall be thirty feet wide at the least. After more than 1,000 years the ferry was discontinued.
"In 1856 the bridge ‘kept getting out of order’ and it was decided to build a new one. An iron bridge was considered but was too expensive so a new wooden bridge was substituted.
"In 1891 a third more substantial, three arch stone bridge was built to accommodate heavier vehicles.
"Ninety years later Sandwich by-pass was opened, tolls were discontinued but the bridge still remains a well used and popular route into and out of the town.
"We look forward to its return in December."