HUNDREDS of motorists were forced to seek alternative routes after Poole's Twin Sails Bridge closed to traffic this afternoon.

The £21 million bridge was temporarily shut down so engineers could fix a damaged bearing pad, said Borough of Poole.

Traffic started to build-up on approaches to the nearby lifting bridge while the Twin Sails was cordoned off at both ends.

Initially council engineers hoped the scheduled maintenance, that saw the Twin Sails close to traffic at 12.30pm, would be finished by 2pm.

However, the problem was still being worked on as rush hour approached. It finally reopened at 5.10pm.

Borough of Poole engineering manager John Rice explained: “During planned maintenance in April it was identified that one of the bearing pads had been damaged. This was caused by a loss of synchronisation during a bridge lift.”

Mr Rice said engineers were unable to carry out the repairs back in April, as a replacement bearing pad could not be obtained at such short notice.

He added: “As we do not want to wait until the bridge closes for its planned maintenance next spring, we decided to carry out this minor work now.

“The Twin Sails Bridge was closed to road traffic after the 12.30pm bridge life to enable the bearing pad to be replaced.“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time.”