THE collapse of the badly corroded Storesbrook Bridge could have led to a widespread and long-lasting broadband internet blackout in the Ledbury area, it has been revealed.

The bridge on the Bromyard Road, currently undergoing urgent repairs lasting 14 weeks, supports one of the main internet cables for the area.

If the bridge had failed, taking the cable with it, scores of local businesses and homes could have faced an internet blackout lasting for up to one year, because of the time it usually takes for BT to re-establish a broken broadband cable.

Cllr Barry Durkin, Herefordshire Council cabinet member for transport, went on a site visit to the bridge this week, where he expressed the importance of broadband links to the community.

He said: “Our aim is to protect the cables and limit disruption.

“I’m very happy with the way the work is going. It’s very professional and very safety orientated, and we are proceeding on schedule.”

Herefordshire Council contractor Knights Brown is busy preparing to replace the metal decking of the bridge, with the old 20-tonne deck set to lifted vertically by a 220-tonne crane within the next week or so.

This means the vital broadband cable, which is attached to the bridge, will need to be temporarily detached and supported during the process.

Netting has been set in place beneath the bridge to prevent any debris falling into the River Leadon.

Meanwhile, the removal of the road surface has revealed how corroded the late Victorian metal decking actually was.

There are large holes in the steel decking which were not visible before the cladding was removed.

At the site visit, Owen Kingsbury of Knights Brown said the bridge might not have been in danger of any imminent collapse but it may have been a risk in ten years time.

Herefordshire Council took the decision to repair it after a number of inspections by Balfour Beatty.