CONGESTION caused by the revamp of a railway bridge has led shoppers to turn their backs on an area of Kendal, claim traders.

Work started at the beginning of the month to refurbish the 170-year-old Longpool bridge leading to traffic being restricted to a single lane.

It has led to traffic tailbacks and traders in the area say that potential customers are not prepared to ‘fight their way through’ to visit their shops.

And while acknowledging the £400,000 work is necessary, some have spoken of their disappointment at the effect it is having on shops.

Brian Harrison, chair of the South Lakes branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said that family-run businesses in that area of town were likely to be hardest hit.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time as we are just starting to come out of a recession,” he said.

Angela Dixon, of Sharps Bedrooms, Stockbeck Mill, said January was the peak month of business.

“Some will look at the tailbacks and just turn around. Why would they bother trying to fight their way through?” she said.

Danny Askew, owner of convenience store Lakeland Videos, on Wildman Street, echoed that view, saying the number of people visiting the shop was down 20 per cent.

“People are starting to avoid the area and after such a long time you get in a different mindset and won’t come back,” he said.

Craig Dixon, manager of builder’s merchants Jewsons, estimated there had been a 15 per cent drop in trade.

“There are also issues with cars parking outside and blocking the road,” he said.

“I know they’ve got to do the work but communication with all businesses would have helped.”

And Nigel Byrom, who is on the committee of the FSB and also the owner of the Family Furnisher, on Wildman Street, said: “Everybody is suffering, from the fella coming into work to the shops and traders,” he said.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “This work is essential to extend the life and improve the appearance of the bridge which has a prominent position in Kendal.

“It’s been carefully planned to be completed as quickly as possible to minimise disruption but we apologise for the inconvenience the work is causing.

“Once complete, the bridge won’t require further work for many years and its improved appearance will help to improve the local environment.”

The bridge is to be grit-blasted and repainted alongside steelwork repairs and pigeon proofing.