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Photo Feature: Crowds See New Walnut Bridge Installed

Published on: 23 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 24 Sep, 2021

The new 50 tonne, Walnut Bridge, spanning 28 metres, being lifted into position. Photo by Arcadis. Click on the images to enlarge them.

By Hugh Coakley

The new 50-tonne, Walnut Bridge was lifted into position over the River Wey between Walnut Tree Close and the Bedford Plaza on Tuesday (September 21). A crowd of about 40 people gathered to watch the construction team carry out the precision lift.

Opposition to the new bridge, understood to have cost around £5 million [not £27.9 million as previously reported in error], has been vociferous from some quarters, including some borough councillors. Members of the Residents for Guildford and Villages party, who now lead the borough council, voted against the project continuing, even though it would have meant having to pay back the £1.5 million funding from Enterprise M3 LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership).

Cllr Joss Bigmore

In June 2020, Cllr Joss Bigmore (Christchurch), before he became GBC’s leader under the deal struck with the Lib Dem group, explained the position of the R4GV group at Millmead: “R4GV have never supported this particular design for a replacement Walnut Bridge.

“Whilst the benefits of a new bridge are not in question this solution is expensive, premature and to our mind ugly. However, despite our best attempts, including a ‘call-in’ to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, we lost the debate at Executive and the project moves forward.

“Our focus now will be improved project governance under the excellent stewardship of Cllr Rigg, so that we experience no more of the delays, cost overruns and design missteps that have plagued this crossing.”

The new bridge is expected to open to the public from early November, a month ahead of the schedule announced in June 2020, with the river towpath fully reopening in mid-November.

The day started with 750-tonne capacity crane, said to be one of the largest mobile cranes in the country, being rigged for action. 180 tonnes of counterweights were needed to stabilise the £13,000 a day crane for the lift.

John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for major projects, said: “This wider and more accessible bridge will create a better and safer route for pedestrians and cyclists to travel between the town centre and the station, rather than the narrow pavement on Bridge Street which has been an accident black spot.”

The new steel bridge arrived from a factory in Yorkshire under police escort and inched along Bedford Road.

There wasn’t much room left between the bridge and the Bedford Road car park.

Bedford Road was closed to traffic during the operation.

A crowd of about 40 people gathered on both sides of the river to watch.

Tony Bennewith, a local accountant, was there to see the bridge lift. He said he had been watching the construction from the start and had been “very impressed with the whole process”.

The bridge was airborne at about 3.30pm, a couple of hours after arriving on the site.

Steel reinforcing bars had to be cut to allow the bridge to be finally positioned. “Fine tuning,” said the contractor’s staff.

View from Walnut Tree Close just before the bridge was lowered into its final position.

The faded sign on the old Walnut Bridge. The bridge, which has only lasted 35 years, will remain open until late October.

Felipe Fontao, project manager for the contractor, Volker Laser, said: “I love the work. This is my 30th bridge but it’s the people you meet in construction that I enjoy most.”

From the left, Sebastian Springer (principal consultant for the designer, Arcadis), Andrew Branch (technical director for Arcadis) and Dermot Whelan (GBC project manager). After the successful lift, Sebastion said: “It’s gone well. We are very happy.”

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test 3 Responses to Photo Feature: Crowds See New Walnut Bridge Installed

  1. J Brown Reply

    September 23, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    £5 million for this bridge is akin to £39 billion for the track and trace app. A local con.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    September 23, 2021 at 4:56 pm

    I am glad the lifting and placing the bridge went well.

    I cannot figure out the thinking behind the chosen form of the bridge. It seems to me to be unnecessarily complicated.

    It will require inspection of fairly large areas of painted surfaces. Any maintenance would require access over the river and it would be expensive. Health & Safety requirements would most probably mean the bridge would have to be closed during such work.

    The bridge could easily have been made with precast prestressed concrete beams and cantilevered deck to achieve a similar cross-section profile that I believe is needed to allow sufficient headroom for the steps going down beside the bridge and turning under it to the towpath below.

    A concrete bridge would have been much cheaper and easier to construct. Its maintenance would have been much simpler and it would not have required closure of the bridge, unlike the one that has now been erected.

    It seems to me that GBC did not receive appropriate advice on structural form both in terms of its construction and its maintenance.

  3. Jan Messinger Reply

    September 23, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Something slightly more concerning to people’s safety is the number of pedestrians walking on Walnut Tree Close Road because there is no path outside Guildford railway station opposite, by the riverside where there are currently temporary traffic lights and metal fencing and narrow road with traffic passing close to people.

    This could be especially dangerous as it is getting darker earlier and generally seems very dark at this point.

    I hope someone addresses this issue.

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