Fringe Box



Letter: Some Practical Difficulties Remain Before GVG’s Plan Can Be Realised

Published on: 3 Feb, 2017
Updated on: 3 Feb, 2017

From Bibhas Neogi

I watched Guildford Vision Group’s (GVG) presentation of their ideas for Guildford town centre redevelopment in connection with the removal of the gyratory. Their ideas of creating public squares and developing walkways alongside the banks of the river are impressive. However, the removal of the gyratory requires them to take all traffic to the west of the tracks on a new link.

The new layout would require, we are told, widening the Town Bridge, rebuilding Farnham Road Bridge, a link running parallel to Guildford Park Road and taken through to the car park access – all on Network Rail land.

The route then goes over the tracks and on a flyover to York Road through the area of Crown Court and the police station. Quite a bit of demolition job of multi-million pound buildings along the route.

Developers would have to come forward to carry out the rebuilding but the question is would they be interested in contributing huge sums of money for the road infrastructure that is needed for the redevelopment.

County councils have not got such funds – only comparatively small sums could be raised through Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Developers would only invest when they could get a reasonable return and they would look for other areas to invest where such big changes to the road network do not have to be funded.

Logistically the bridge and flyover have to be built first the audiences were told. This means that Onslow Street, the relocation area of the buses from the bus station, would not be possible unless a temporary bus station is found to let North Street redevelopment to proceed.

The timescale of such a major new road link is likely to be, not less than ten years, including negotiations with Network Rail and the property owners, a public enquiry and compulsory purchase orders, etc.

There was no mention of any alternatives that had been explored or other existing suggestions looked at. Building bridges over live railway tracks poses all sorts of difficulties. Trains run almost 20 hours a day and there is no room for locating bridge supports next to the tracks.

Any construction adjacent and over the tracks require stringent Network Rail safety rules. The route from York Road roundabout replacing Onslow Street would carry four lanes of traffic and unless 50% reduction is possible due to “modal shift”, a two-lane road would be totally inadequate. So I am not speculating, as accused by Bill Stokoe of GVG previously, that the link would have to be more than a two-lane road.

Raising the Town Bridge to avoid flooding would mean raising the road in front of St. Nicolas Church and Millmead access. The public houses in that area most probably would also require to be demolished and rebuilt, so a little less of retaining the existing character of riverside amenities there.

Farnham Road Bridge needs to be strengthened or rebuilt. GVG is proposing to rebuild it wider and locate new supports in an area that has very little room between the tracks.

The above are practical difficulties that are likely to mar the beautiful dream of GVG planners.

Overall a very good visual improvement of Guildford has been presented but would this be buildable or financially viable when a price tag of £2 billion has been revealed by the architects. By the way, statutory headroom for bridges is 5.1 metres and not 4.8 metres as the architects said at the meeting and for new build the recommended headroom is 5.3 metres.

I feel that the alternative described in my previous comments needs to be explored so as to get a balance of views and costs against benefits before the councils further consider the suggested developments.

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Responses to Letter: Some Practical Difficulties Remain Before GVG’s Plan Can Be Realised

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    October 6, 2017 at 7:53 am

    Has GVG consulted extensively with Network Rail to explore the possibility of rebuilding Farnham Road Bridge on an altered alignment and on new supports?

    Has Network Rail agreed to run the link through their land and how is the access to the station and the footbridge maintained when the link crosses this route. Also how is the access to the car park that goes under Farnham Road Bridge maintained from Guildford Park Road?

    Town Bridge has been regarded by Guildford Society as a very desirable structure to retain unaltered. How does Guildford Society view its widening and raising the level of it? How is the access to Millmead maintained?

    These are the questions I raised through Guildford Dragon and they were sent to GVG for their reply. I gather GVG did reply but it was a few months later and the thread got lost in the general disinterest on details of such matters.

    Would GVG care to re-post their reply? I would very much like to learn what GVG had to say.

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