WITH reference to your leading headline in the Review of February 15, your presumption of the early permanent closure of the upper Severn Bridge could be well founded.

Since that article the bridge has been closed on four separate occasions (all day and night) and four days with speed limit restrictions.

Although the Avon and Somerset police site the notion of "safety first," maybe it's a combination of one or all of the following:

a: A lack of personnel turning up for the early morning shift.

b: It's easier to completely close the bridge, than allowing only cars to filter through the road-block of cones to the exclusion of heavy lorries at Chepstow!

c: Easier traffic control of one river crossing?

I would be interested with how the Gloucestershire and Welsh constabularies view this issue?

Today (Wednesday, February 27, 2002) in particular, I rang the Aust centre to enquire into the state of the upper bridge crossing, only to be told that it was closed due to the prevailing wind/weather conditions. With the bridge closed, it requires anyone needing to cross an extra 25 mile detour tagged on to any round-trip; this takes into account being at the usual M48/M4 interchange, if they had travelled their original upper-bridge route. This must be an even greater burden on local and national hauliers in extra fuel used, mileage covered and dedicated drivers' core hours, especially as large corporations have significant storage facilities in the lea of the upper river crossing at Chepstow.

I am of the belief that the police do not comprehend the stress induced to drivers by diverting the M48 traffic to negotiate the same roundabout, at Magor (J23a, M4) which leads, at times, to hold-ups in excess of up to two hours, this especially at rush-hour times.

The traffic was particularly heavy that morning and overhead gantries were showing 50 mph speed restrictions. It seems ironic that the police, who have a duty to care for us all using the Severn river crossings, seemed ambivalent to the prevailing weather conditions and their own directives, when at least two police control vehicles passed me at speeds in excess of 50 mph. They were certainly not in an emergency mode and the majority of drivers followed them by also ignoring the warning speed restrictions signs!

The upper bridge has been there since 1966 and I believe has been closed on rare occasions and only then under extenuating circumstances. It is not more the case of over-protection for a situation that might have a minute probability of happening, ie an accident on the bridge?

I do not see how a 45 knot (51 mph) wind can be classed as dangerous when all vehicles have been travelling the M4 corridor east and west with the same wind factor acting upon them for some considerable time!

Finally, what is the Avon and Somerset Police's fallback plan if the upper bridge is "officially closed" and there is a multiple accident on the lower crossing which could effectively render it inoperable for hours or possibly days?

Maybe, readers, it is time to raise the issue of a second safer river crossing around the Lydney area. After all, the local district council wants expansion for Lydney in particular and the Forest of Dean in general. What are your thoughts? – R. Dawson-Marsh, Bishops Gate, Lydney.