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‘Iconic’ New Bridge Approved by Borough Council Executive

Published on: 20 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 20 Jul, 2016
The recommended design for a replacement bridge to cross the River Wey near the railway station. It is hoped that it will provide a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists to and from the town centre.

An artist’s impression of the recommended design (viewed looking south) for a replacement bridge to cross the River Wey near the railway station. It is hoped that it will provide a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists to and from the town centre.

An “iconic new gateway bridge” was approved at last night’s (July 19) Executive meeting of Guildford Borough Council (GBC).

Walnut Bridge, a footbridge that crosses the River Wey between the railway Station and the Odeon Cinema, will be replaced with a modern, cable stayed bridge which will be wider for cyclists and pedestrians.

The new bridge is one of a number of projects being progressed by both GBC and Surrey County Council (SCC) as part of the Guildford “Town Centre Transport Package”, comprising a number of schemes to encourage walking and cycling to and through the town centre.

Cllr Matt Furniss.

Cllr Matt Furniss

Cllr Matt Furniss, (Con, Christchurch) lead councillor for infrastructure and governance, said:   “This will be the first bridge to be built in many years and it’s dynamic, innovative design will transform this part of town.  It will provide a gateway to the station and a first step in the regeneration of Bedford Wharf.

“The current bridge is too narrow, with limited cycling and pedestrian access. The new replacement bridge will enable access for pedestrians, and easier passage for cyclists, due to it being considerably wider.  It will also reduce reliance on the gyratory system as a main route.

“In addition, the current entrance to the bridge is hidden on the station side, which means that only regular pedestrians use it. Having a wider bridge with a clear entrance will give access to more people and encourage new users.

Walnut Tree Bridge

The “living bridge” option was not recommended because few bridge builders could be found with experience of constructing and installing such bridged and because of the extra ongoing maintenance costs.

“The iconic design of the new bridge will act as a focal point for the regeneration of the Bedford Wharf site, encouraging sustainable travel to and from the town centre on a key pedestrian route and will maintain access to the river.”

Walnut Bridge 2015 12

The existing Walnut Bridge installed in 1986

The existing pedestrian cycle bridge lies over the river Wey between the Billings and Bishop’s Wharf buildings on the west side, and the Bedford Wharf area on the east.  Subject to further engineering investigation, including ground conditions, the next stage is to commission the design and construction of the bridge.

The current plan is for the new bridge to be built off-site, and then lifted into place. Our aim is to ensure minimal disruption to residents and businesses during this period, though we currently anticipate that there may be a few weekend closures of the current bridge.

The cost of the new bridge is currently estimated at £2.7million, with funding coming from the M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, and contributions from Surrey County Council and Guildford Borough Council. It is anticipated that delivery will take place in the late summer of 2018.

The project is part of a comprehensive package of developments to improve travel for pedestrians and cyclists across Guildford.

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Cllr Caroline Reeves

During the short council debate both the leader of the opposition, Cllr Caroline Reeves, (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas) and the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, Cllr Susan Parker (GGG, Send) offered their support for the project.

Referring to last week’s unanimous vote to campaign against adopting an elected mayor system for Guildford, Cllr Furniss commented: “Two rare shows of unity across the council in two weeks.”

Later, Cllr Reeves said: “I am very pleased that the new bridge has been approved by the Executive, it’s part of the big regeneration plan for the town – much of which is in my ward of Friary & St Nicolas.’

“There have been safety issues with the current bridge for some time, and it is heartening to see it being replaced with a modern landmark design.

Cllr Susan Parker

Cllr Susan Parker

“The emphasis on using this route to the town centre is a key part of improving pedestrian safety and should help to reduce footfall on the town bridge.

“Bedford Wharf has been neglected for some years and this will be the start of the regeneration of a key town centre site.”

Cllr Parker added: “This is will make access from the station to the town centre easier; this bridge was much needed. I also support the council’s choice of design which will be the most economic option from the shortlist.”

Cllr Angela Gunning feature

Cllr Angela Gunning

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke), leader of the Labour group, said: “Great news. It’s a really exciting project. I love the design.

“I look forward to seeing it under construction and the eventual opening.

“It is a great investment by the borough, and a tremendous improvement on the current narrow and rather unattractive bridge.’

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Responses to ‘Iconic’ New Bridge Approved by Borough Council Executive

  1. John Lomas Reply

    July 20, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    I applaud the idea of a new bridge and what looks like a “Land Mark style” (final designs yet to be seen) and “Having a wider bridge with a clear entrance will give access to more people and encourage new users.”

    But the only way to stop pedestrians taking the shortest route is to physically block off access from the right hand paved area of the Station Approach to the junction of Walnut Tree Close with Bridge Street.

    Time and time again planners put pavements where they want pedestrians to walk. Of course, pedestrians will normally take the shortest route, even if it means wearing a muddy track across grassed areas.

    I hope it works but I have my doubts.

  2. David Smith Reply

    July 21, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Could GBC also think about a crossing at on Walnut Tree Close at the start of the bridge?

  3. Ben Paton Reply

    July 22, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Why replace the existing bridge? The girder underneath it (pictured above) looks specified to carry the weight of a tank! It probably has an unexpired design life of a few hundred years.

    How difficult is it to make the existing bridge wider? All it takes is someone to design and commission the steelwork and a few welders for a fortnight to install it.

    How much time and money would that save? A year and a few million?

    Just as a mental exercise, if this was a toll bridge and every person paid 10p to cross how many years would it take to recover the £2.7 million cost? 27 million bridge crossings will take how many years to accumulate?

    By comparison long would it take to recover the cost of making it wider? Is this more of a “Grand Projet” than a practical solution? If councillors were paying for this bridge with their own money there might be more emphasis on the bridge and less on the icon.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      July 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      It is an interesting observation about the potential for widening the bridge. However, I imagine the width of the current bridge was selected to match the width of the opening in the Billings that it passes through. This appears to have little scope for being increased.

      I would support a wider bridge but note that councils are often wedded to their new structures being “iconic” with an associated uplift in costs.

      Encouragement of the use of a wider bridge would have to go hand in hand with improvements on either side of the river for pedestrians and cyclists.

      Please see article: Walnut Tree Bridge Replacement Will Allow Improved Access To The Town Centre published last year (2015). It reports that the council purchased a small piece of land to enable improved access to the bridge. Ed

  4. Valerie Thompson Reply

    July 23, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    How many people actually use this bridge? If the answer is “not very many” then why not? Is it suitable for cycles and wheelchairs?

    Are there any directions from the station or the town centre in the other direction, to encourage people to use this route, rather than the dangerous crossings at Farnham Road and Bridge Street?

    If the answers to the second and third questions are “yes” then no change is necessary, if not, widening, ramps and directions should save a few hundred thousand pounds.

  5. David Raison Reply

    July 25, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Why does this council insist on sharing pedestrian areas with cyclists? There are constant issues with cyclists treating the pavement as a cycle track and being aggressive towards people who have a more legitimate reason to use the pavement.

    I have ridden a bike since my teens and wouldn’t dream of riding on the pavement. Bicycles are road vehicles, not pavement toys.

  6. James Dix Reply

    July 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    This does seem like another waste of money, which could be better spent elsewhere.

    Given that the pavement either side of the bridge is footpath and therefore you cannot cycle on it anyway, what is the benefit to widening the bridge to make it cycle-friendly, unless they are adding cycle lanes at either end as well?

    Also given that really the bridge only serves people going from the station to the car parks or cinema (or vice-versa), the faster route to the town or Friary is Bridge Street anyway.

    A pedestrian crossing at the station end, a new coat of paint and maybe some lights on the bridge itself and everyone would be happy. I use the bridge quite often and have never witnessed anyone struggling to cross.

    Perhaps the money could be used to install some safety railings on Bridge Street instead, and some better signposts to encourage more use of the alternative route, if this is required?

  7. Dave Middleton Reply

    July 28, 2016 at 10:44 am

    This new bridge design is frankly hideous and totally out of character with it’s surroundings and the wider townscape. Yet again, some architect is seeking to make some kind of grand design statement to broaden their CV at the expense of local taxpayers.

    Can’t we have a simple, functional bridge rather than this monstrosity?

  8. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    July 28, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    My comments on the proposed bridge is contained in a letter,-

    The depth of the deck has to be minimised so that the approach ramps are as short as possible. The slope of the approach ramps should preferably be 1 in 20 and no steeper than 1 in 15. So for every metre of raised deck level, the approach ramps have to be at least 15 metres longer.

    The iconic deck level would have to be higher to incorporate a spine beam below deck to which the cables are attached. This would raise the deck level and the lengths of approach ramps. Alternatively, a spine beam upstand above the deck could be used. In either case, the cables would divide the deck into two halves.

    Is that desirable on a footbridge? Maybe it would be better to have two rows of cables, one at each edge and the spine beams that could form part of the parapet system that would be required to be 1.4m high for the safety of the cyclists.

    Considering the above factors, it seems a traditional steel beam and slab deck or a voided concrete deck simply supported on piers would be better practical alternatives to the iconic form that, as I said in my letter, is not suited to this site.

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