Fringe Box



Updated Comment: A View On a Bridge

Published on: 31 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2023

Guildford Station from the pedestrian bridge.

By Martin Giles

The large “D” tattoo on a circle of dead, preserved human flesh had a macababre fascination for my next-door neighbour chum and me. In the 1960s it was one of the more gruesome artefacts, taken from the body of a branded army deserter, on display at the Royal Army Medical Corps Museum at Keogh Barracks in Mytchett.

Living in the village, as I did in my boyhood, it was an easily reached destination for a short, cycling sortie. The museum was housed in a World War 1 creosoted wooden hut, the kind that was still quite common then, in various barracks, but the thing was there was nothing to bar our access into the very centre of the depot.

See update below: “Existing smart card scheme”

We could have gone anywhere without anyone thinking it unusual or bothering to check what we were up to. We sometimes used a route through the barracks as a rat-run to Ash Vale station to avoid the busier Mytchett Road. No one seemed to bother or even notice.

But then the IRA terrorist campaign put a stop to all that, especially after the bombing of barracks in Aldershot in the early 1970s, and a manned barrier appeared at the entrance of the depot.

Since then we have all become accustomed to increasing security. Now, we can’t even take tap water through an airport security check.

So South Western Rail’s decision to trial the closure of the footbridge at Guildford Station should not come as a surprise. Why should they make it easy for fare dodgers, especially those who can’t even keep their dishonesty discrete but make a nuisance of themselves with anti-social behaviour, including threatening staff?

See: Pedestrian Access to Guildford Station Footbridge To Be Withdrawn

The problem is most using the facility do so perfectly lawfully. For those walking from Guildford Park and Onslow Village it is a useful shortcut, saving three minutes on a walk into town.

Importantly, it is hoped that more pedestrians use Walnut Bridge to reduce the number of pedestrians on constrained pavements, inches from traffic, on the busy Bridge Street.

When proposed, many thought replacing Walnut Bridge was an unnecessary improvement. It was certainly an expensive one, coming in at over £6 million, over £4 million more than originally budgeted.

But closure of the station bridge to non-passengers will limit the new, wider bridge’s usefulness and the wisdom of the major investment.

Interestingly, one of the main proponents of the new Walnut Bridge was Cllr Matt Furniss, now restored to Guildford Borough Council. He is also the Cabinet member for Transport at Surrey County Council.

You might expect a Conservative to be firmly on the law and order side of the argument but Cllr Furniss is “disappointed” with SWR’s move saying: “I have raised this with the GBC CEO and have asked that GBC continues to enforce the legal agreement so residents can continue to use the route.”

It has been left to local Lib Dem councillors to make the law and order case. Lead councillor for Transport at GBC, Tom Hunt (St Nicolas), said: “The level of this abuse is completely unacceptable, and I am consequently supportive of a trial to identify to what extent closing the footbridge to non-travel-ticket holders stems the flow of ASB.”

There is no doubt it is a real problem where it is easy to see both sides of the argument.

So here is my suggestion, why not have a more formal “bridge pass” system where evidence of ID is required before an annual pass is issued and a charge is made to cover admin costs? The pass could be a chipped photo ID (it could even be biometric) so holders are more easily identified and tracked. Of course, this would not make one-off, ad hoc use possible by those who are, say, visiting Guildford, but no system will be perfect.

One other point. If SWR is so worried about the loss of ticket revenue why do they leave their barriers wide open at night time when some of the problem ASB occurs?

November 1 – Existing smart card scheme

A reader who did not wish to be named wrote in to say a smart card is already available that can allow station access without charge.

“As suggested in your comment piece SWR already offer what could be considered a station pass. It is the SWR Touch Tap2Go. (Detailed here:

Quoting a condition of issue he said: ” ‘Same station exit – If you touch in and touch out at the same station within 15 minutes, no fare will be charged and we’ll assume you decided not to travel.’

“So it could be used to cross the bridge. The smart card is available for free. The benefit to SWR is that it’s linked to your bank card so you’ll get charged an incomplete journey fee of £25 if you don’t touch out.

“It’s worth noting that TfL contactless should [also] be implemented at Guildford in the next 12 – 18 months. However, the rules regarding same station tap in and out are quite different and usually results in some level of charge to discourage fare evasion. Details are on their website.”

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