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Farnham Road Bridge Could Be Closed To Heavy Traffic If It Is Not Strengthened

Published on: 3 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 6 Nov, 2017

The Farnham Road Bridge over the London to Portsmouth railway line.

Farnham Road Bridge, which carries the A31 traffic into and out of Guildford over the main London to Portsmouth railway line, could be closed to heavy traffic if strengthening work is not carried out within 18 months.

The bridge has been identified as: “critically deficient for unrestricted traffic loading”.

The oldest part of the bridge is believed to date from 1850s. Some bracing work is already clearly evident.

According to a Surrey County Council (SCC) report: “If work is not carried out to strengthen the bridge the weight limit will have to be reduced to 7.5 tonnes.” This would preclude its use by HGV vehicles and buses, causing massive disruption and a 4km diversion of traffic via the A3.”

Heavy traffic over the bridge around 3.30pm today (Nov 3) included HGVs and buses.

Funding of the necessary work is complicated by the different requirements of Network Rail and SCC. Network Rail’s designation of the bridge means it only requires it to have a load-bearing capacity of 24 tonnes whereas SCC requires the bridge as part of a principal road network to have a capacity of 40/44 tonnes, in line with EU regulations. As a result, costs are to be borne proportionately.

Network Rail has proposed a £4.5 million scheme, with work commencing in December 2018. The share from SCC would be £3.5 million.

County Cllr Colin Kemp

County Cllr Colin Kemp (Con, Goldsworth East and Horsell Village), cabinet member for highways, at last Tuesday’s (October 31, 2017) Cabinet meeting said he is: “already working with partners and local people to get the necessary investment into this project.”

SCC’s deputy leader John Furey (Con, Addlestone) observed that Network Rail had first identified the requirement for strengthening in 1998 and had subsequently put it “on watch”.

He said: “Now having found funding for their share of the cost they have now decided to go ahead with it.

County Cllr John Furey

“[The bridge] is one of the main entry points to Guildford. [A lower weight restriction] would affect every bus, every park and ride bus, every HGV or any large vehicle that goes into the town. That four-kilometre diversion would put people off going to Guildford.

“We cannot allow it to happen… and we must support the recommendation… because it would dramatically affect the lifeblood of Guildford, and from that the lifeblood of this county.”

County Cllr David Goodwin, (Lib Dem, Guildford South West), who lives only a few hundred metres from the bridge, said today (November 3, 2017): “I welcome the project to carry out the necessary work on the bridge, however finding the necessary funding is going to be a serious challenge.”

Cllr David Goodwin

Surrey County Council is already having to cut its spending by £104 million in this current financial year.

In what appeared to be a unanimous vote the SCC Cabinet agreed to: support the delivery of the Farnham Road Bridge Project; enter an agreement with Network Rail for payment towards the bridge improvements; work with Network Rail to confirm the Surrey SCC contribution to the scheme; and engage with stakeholders to identify alternative funding sources in order to limit or remove the need to reduce the existing capital programme or borrow to fund this scheme.

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Responses to Farnham Road Bridge Could Be Closed To Heavy Traffic If It Is Not Strengthened

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 3, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Farnham Road Bridge is in need of extensive strengthening or replacement. I am not aware details of strengthening proposals, but I guess their impact on traffic would be severe and that would cause long delays and queues.

    A replacement option could not be considered unless another crossing is built. This strongly reinforces the case for a new bridge over the tracks further north of Farnham Road Bridge. If built, it would not only provide a much needed east-west route instead of this traffic going through the gyratory but could also be used as a temporary route whilst Farnham Road Bridge is being replaced. Needless to say, this would cost more initially but would give a much greater return when benefit from much-reduced delay and pollution are taken into consideration.

    I would like to suggest a replacement option that takes advantage of a possible widening to three lanes and incorporating cycle lanes in addition to a footway on the north side using modified existing supports. Please see the sketches by clicking on the links below and the following sketch also.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    November 4, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I remember it was far back in the 1980s that debris from the bridge was falling on the rail track even then.

    Since then traffic flows have increased, carrying heavy transport on to the A281 and beyond.

    Even traffic from the Cathedral Roundabout through Guildford Park and on to the bridge has increased in recent years.

    Is this not further proof that our infrastructure, even now, cannot cope with present conditions, and yet this situation seems not to be taken into consideration when talking about further housing developments.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    November 5, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    As mentioned above according to a Surrey County Council (SCC) report: “If work is not carried out to strengthen the bridge the weight limit will have to be reduced to 7.5 tonnes.” There is no question of “will have to be reduced to 7.5 tonnes.” It has to be done now.

    SCC is the Highway Authority although the bridge is owned by and maintained by Network Rail. Network Rail has assessed the capacity of the bridge and has established that the load carrying capacity is 7.5 tonnes. Network Rail should have issued assessment certificates to SCC to notify this. Accordingly, SCC must install a weight limit straight away. If it does not, then it could be argued that SCC is failing in safeguarding the travelling public. Yes, it is as serious as this.

    A spokesman for Surrey County Council responded: “Since Network Rail informed us that their bridge needs strengthening we’ve introduced measures including reducing the number of lanes of traffic going across the bridge to keep drivers safe. We continue to get regular updates from Network Rail’s engineers examining the bridge and they assure us there’s no need to introduce any other restrictions at this time.”

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      November 6, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I’m afraid SCC’s reply is inconsistent with what Network Rail has said. Yes, SCC has reduced the number of “possible” lanes (it is not obvious what other measures they have included) and it is allowing full traffic over the bridge. If this is satisfactory now, why there is the need to strengthen the bridge by December 2018?

      Is it implied that its condition is deteriorating so fast that strengthening will be required by December 2018, and if not done, a weight restriction has to be introduced? If the bridge is OK to carry 40/44 tonnes now and then its capacity falls to 7.5 tonnes by December 2018, when does it become unfit to carry 40/44 tonnes? The sensible conclusion has to be “as of now”.

      Let us hope and pray that the bridge stays intact until strengthening works starts in December 2018 but if it does collapse now, SCC will be wholly responsible for the consequences as Network Rail has notified them that the capacity is 7.5 tonnes.

      I would have thought it is not for Network Rail to give assurance that “no need to introduce any other restrictions at this time” when SCC is the Highway Authority? Network Rail accepts responsibility for only up to 24 tonnes capacity and it is demanding £3.5m from SCC to upgrade it to 40/44 tonnes?

  4. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    In the forthcoming SCC Local Committee meeting on 13 December, Farnham Road Bridge issues are likely to be discussed. I have taken the opportunity to pose some questions and sent them for discussion by the Committee members. They are:

    Q1. Considering that Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has expressed its aspiration to make the town centre pedestrian friendly, what measures, if any, have GBC and Surrey County Council (SCC) explored and examined that would achieve this?

    Q2. Considering the councils’ aim to implement the proposed sustainable corridor, what changes are required to Farnham Road Bridge to accommodate two-way traffic, dedicated cycle lanes and pedestrians within the existing width of the, now weak, bridge which is planned to be strengthened by Network Rail with contributions from the councils of some £3.5m?

    Q3. Acknowledging the fact that removal of the gyratory is essential in achieving a pedestrian-friendly town centre, would the councils consider that a new east-west route over the tracks would be required in addition to diverting the north-south traffic away from Millbrook and Onslow Street areas?

    Q4. Would the councils agree that the additional traffic thus diverted and provision of dedicated cycle lanes would require a widened Farnham Road Bridge and that it would be prudent to secure funds and replace the bridge at a future date rather than spending funds now to strengthen it to 40/44 tonnes and instead implement a weight restriction of 17 Tons after Network Rail has completed strengthening it to 24 Tons?

    Q5. Would the councils acknowledge that there is a strong case for reviewing the options for redesigning the traffic routes through the town centre as proposed by me (please see the website or as proposed by Guildford Vision Group and establish a safe pedestrian zone so that businesses would benefit from increased footfall and improved environment?

    I hope the committee would find the above questions relevant and the issues raised therein worthy of further consideration. I thank Maurice Barham of Guildford Society who urged me to write to SCC about this bridge.

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    January 19, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    I hope the councils would examine my questions and come up with the answers in due course.

    Now that the councils have decided to contribute £3.5m to Network Rail’s strengthening work, a replacement bridge is no longer a consideration.

    I think the existing bridge could, after strengthening, accommodate three narrow lanes when the footways are removed leaving 600mm upstands from the edge of the girders/parapets but where then can the footways to be located? Well, the possibility of placing them on brackets attached to the bridge should be explored.

    For instance, on the south side a cycle lane could be located whereas on the north side a cycle lane and a footway would provide better access to the railway station. Of course the bridge has to be assessed for the additional loading and the practicalities of bolting on the brackets would need to be sorted out both for the brick arches and the steel girders of the bridge.

    No doubt a second best option but would the councils now consider this possibility and have its feasibility carried out? This would, if prove to be possible, create a better solution for traffic and support the aims of the sustainable corridor.

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