SUDBROOK residents have voiced concerns that the fire service has no alternative access to the village in case of a major emergency.

Residents of Sudbrook near Caldicot were left trapped in November when two lorries blocked the small steel bridge which provides the only access in and out of the village.

Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) responded by making the coastal path between Black Rock and Sudbrook an alternate route for emergency vehicle access.

But prospective Labour candidate for Portskewett Rachel Garrick has said that residents are concerned that the coastal path remains too narrow for full access by the emergency services.

In a letter to the Beacon, Mrs Rachel Garrick said residents have significant concerns over the practicality of bringing a fire engine down the coastal path if the bridge to Sudbrook is closed. She explained that many other local authorities require a 3.7 metre wide clearance for fire engines, and yet the entrance to the coastal path was three metres wide.

MCC has confirmed that because of the limited width, the route is unsuitable for the standard fire engine responding to a house fire.

Residents’ concerns are heightened due to the positioning of a transformer substation adjacent to the coastal path.

Mrs Garrick said: “As a chartered health and safety professional with several years’ experience of electricity distribution, I am painfully aware of the level of emergency which can transpire when a transformer of this size fails. I have arrived on site three days after a 132kV transformer failure to start the rebuild of a substation to find the fire brigade still dealing with the fire.

“The initial accident had cut off several square miles of supply to houses. Such failures do occur from time to time and it is essential that the consequences of such a risk are not underestimated.  If an emergency of this sort transpired whilst the village is cut off by road, it would be essential that utilities vehicles as well as fire tenders can gain urgent access to the village.”

Group Engineer for Highways at MCC Paul Keeble responded: “Following the incident which blocked the Sudbrook rail bridge last November, and given the impact on the local community, the council considered options for an alternative access to the village. The coastal path was identified as short term provision, offering an alternative emergency route into the village should such an incident reoccur and it has been possible to improve this path to allow vehicular access.

“Discussions with the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service however identified that because of the limited width and the close proximity of the track to the cliff edge this route is unsuitable to accommodate the standard fire attendant required to deal with a house fire. Fortunately such incidents are now very uncommon.

“Also, the pumping station is no longer identified as an emergency access for any event in the Severn Tunnel so it was decided that the coastal path should be improved to offer an alternative for emergency purposes such as ambulance and police access. The fire service has a 4x4 vehicle which may be able to assist for other minor incidents.”

“Thankfully, incidents when the bridge completely blocks access to the village are very rare. However, we hope that the improvements to the coastal path and the facility to provide an emergency access to the village will offer some comfort to the residents of Sudbrook.

“Finally, the council’s highways officers will stipulate to any contractor wishing to close the bridge for maintenance purposes that they must ensure that access for emergency services can be provided at all times.”