Page last updated at 09:17 GMT, Friday, 2 May 2008 10:17 UK

Sediment theory over ford rescues

Stanhope Ford rescue
Concerns have been raised about the cost of rescue operations

A controversial river crossing is to remain shut over fears that high water levels may leave motorists stranded.

Stanhope Ford in County Durham was closed in April, hours after re-opening for the summer, after two soldiers became trapped in their vehicle.

Now Durham County Council engineers believe a build-up of silt and sediment could be creating a dam-like effect.

The ford will remain closed for a further 21 days while the river bed conditions are examined.

Warning signs have been in place for several years, but they failed to prevent some drivers unfamiliar with the area from attempting to cross.

The cost of rescue operations led to calls for the ford's closure, and last year it was shut throughout winter for the first time.

Detailed inspection

But on 1 April, only hours after re-opening, two off-duty soldiers became trapped in their car after trying to drive across fast-flowing water.

The barriers were subsequently lowered and the ford has remained closed since.

Roger Elphick, the county council's acting director of environment said: "Although the water level in the river is still too high to make a detailed inspection, our engineers are concerned that silt and sediment on the river bed below the ford may be affecting water levels back at the ford itself.

"We have asked the Environment Agency to investigate, and their findings could delay the re-opening even further."

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31 Mar 08 |  England
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08 Nov 07 |  England
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