THE Abbey Bridge and viaduct in Evesham are set to re-open to traffic next week, it has been announced.

Worcestershire County Council has confirmed contractor Hochtief says work on the revised programme has progressed well and the structure is now almost in a position to be opened to vehicles.

It's planned that two lanes of the important link across the River Avon will re-open during the week commencing March 10, the council said.

The original re-opening of the bridge was delayed in December last year, and once again at the start of the year, with Hochtief planning a re-opening date of March 31.

An exact time for re-opening is still to be finalised but details will be communicated with the public as soon as they are confirmed.

Cllr John Smith OBE, county council cabinet member for highways, said the decision had been taken by the council, in liaison with the contractor.

"Hochtief has confirmed that it should be in a position to re-open the link to two-way traffic during the week commencing March 10," he said.

"We've made it clear to the contractor throughout that we need this crucial link open and available as quickly as possible.

"Now this seems a realistic opportunity the decision has been made to re-open to vehicles as soon as it's safe to do so.

"To avoid any confusion and potential issues with safety the diversion route through the town will remain in place and continue to be staffed to help traffic flow until all three lanes of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct are open."

A spokesman from Hochtief said: "Hochtief, in agreement with Worcestershire County Council, advise that the Abbey Bridge will open to two-way traffic during the week commencing March 10."

Cllr Smith added: "Both the County Council funded discounted offers of three hours parking for 20p in the town's Wychavon District Council short and long-stay car parks and half-price bus travel to/from Evesham town centre, will continue and remain in place until March 31.

"This news is welcome and the replacement project, which will ensure this crucial link remains in place for generations to come, is now nearing its completion.

"I'd like to, once again, thank everyone in our community that's backed our town and its traders over these last few challenging months. The support has been truly appreciated and I'm sure this will continue in the months and years ahead."

The temporary pedestrian bridge will remain open ensuring the commitment to pedestrian and cyclist access throughout the scheme is kept.