SUFFERING traders and residents in Evesham have been dealt a fresh blow with the news that the town’s Abbey Bridge will remain closed for another two-and-a-half months.

After its original November reopening date was scrapped, a new completion date of Monday, March 31, was finally announced this week.

But the news has been met with suspicion by some in the town, who say they will remain sceptical until the vital route is finally reopened.

Ashley Judge, who owns Big Whoop Comics in Vine Court, said: “I am dubious because of how many times it’s been delayed.

“But it is not quite as late as I was expecting. It is one of those, I will believe it when it opens.” The 85- year-old bridge – a main route into the town – was first closed in September last year for reconstruction work. At the time Worcestershire County Council gave assurances it would re-open in time for the Christmas rush.

But the bridge has remained closed into the new year, with contractor Hochtief saying workers have lost 22 days due to bad weather, with wind gusts affecting a crane, and river flows being too strong for the river boats to work. There have also been technical issues with the arch supports to the bridge deck.

Councillor John Smith, county council cabinet member for highways, has held a meeting with Hochtief, MP Sir Peter Luff and senior county council figures. He has demanded the contractor finish the bridge work as soon as possible.

“I've made it clear previously the delays to the reopening of the Abbey Bridge and viaduct are extremely disappointing and fall outside the agreement in place with the contractor,” he said.

“The contractor gave its reassurance that it understood the situation and would make every effort to get it reopened as early as it could. We totally understand the feelings of frustration people have because of the delays. The council will continue to do it all it can to support businesses .”

A half-price bus fare offer to and from the town centre, due to finish at the end of 2013, is now remaining in place and car parking discounts also continue.