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Wey Towpath Diversion as Work Starts on New Walnut Bridge

Published on: 3 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 4 Feb, 2021

Artist’s impression of the new Walnut Bridge. Looking south. Image GBC

Work on the controversial new bridge across the Wey from Walnut Tree Close to Bedford Plaza takes a step forward this week.

The new Walnut Bridge has faced considerable opposition, including from R4GV, the new political party now leading the borough council under the power-sharing agreement with the Lib Dems.

The replacement bridge proposal originated from the preceding Tory administration who secured financial support from the M3 Local Enterprise Partnership.

See previous Walnut Bridge stories here

After the Conservatives were roundly defeated at the 2019 council election, delivery of the project was approved by the, at the time, majority Lib Dem Executive.

Another view of how the new bridge will appear, looking north. Image GBC

To start building the new bridge foundations, GBC will close off a small part of the towpath, meaning pedestrians and cyclists will need to take a short diversion. The existing bridge will remain open.

Deputy Council Leader Caroline Reeves

Deputy council leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), said: “I’m pleased work to improve this area of Guildford, and our already vibrant and prosperous town centre, is continuing.

“The wider and more accessible bridge will offer a safer route into the town by avoiding the narrow pavement on Bridge Street, which has been an accident blackspot. It will also improve railway station and riverside access and transform Bedford Plaza.

“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused by the works and this diversion, but when finished the new bridge will be fully DDA-compliant and will be of particular benefit to residents in the Walnut Tree Close area and the students and staff who frequently walk to and from County School.

“It will be the first new bridge in the town in many years and will also include a sweeping ramp and steps down to the Plaza which will open up and transform the whole area.

The existing bridge installed in 1986.

“The new landscaping around the site will complement the structure and ensure the space is welcoming and encourage people to not only walk and cycle from the station into the town centre but to use the area to sit and relax.

“The plans are a key part of our Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and active transport initiatives. As more people try to reduce their impact on the environment, improving the options for walkers and cyclists is a priority for us as part of our plans to address climate change, reduce reliance on cars and alleviate congestion in the town centre.”

A section of the towpath on the west bank of the River Wey will be closed from Wednesday, February 3 until Friday, July 9. The diversion will be from the YMCA to the south and along Walnut Tree Close to Aquatico at the north end.

To follow the diversion, exit the towpath via the alleyway opposite the southern entrance to The Mews, and continue south along Walnut Tree Close to Guildford Station.

Enter the Bridge Street underpass and take the steps adjacent to the YMCA to rejoin the towpath. This diversion is 500 metres long, 150 metres longer than the towpath route.

Step-free access can be gained by exiting the towpath at the railway bridge on to Woodbridge Meadows and walking south along Walnut Tree Close to Guildford Station.

Enter the Bridge Street underpass, continue south along Park Street and use the ramp at Onslow Street to rejoin the towpath. This step-free route covers the same distance as the towpath, at 1.2km.

Signs will be in place along the full length of the route to help guide pedestrians and cyclists. Access along the towpath up to the Walnut Bridge construction site will still be possible but people continuing past the site will need to follow the diversion because the steps beside Walnut Bridge will be closed.

Location of Walnut Bridge – Google Maps

Bedford Plaza will also remain closed, with access through to Guildford train station possible via a marked route.

Cllr Reeves added: “The project will create a wider bridge across the Wey and a landscaped plaza to offer an improved route into the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists by linking Walnut Tree Close at the train station to Bedford Plaza.

“It will be a safer alternative to the crowded pavements of Bridge Street for residents, commuters and visitors, and a safer route to the town for the new residents who will be moving into accommodation further down Walnut Tree Close.”

The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. New lighting and a newly-landscaped Bedford Plaza will make the area more appealing.

The scheme is a key part of the council’s Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and Sustainable Movement Corridor initiatives and will include improving station and riverside access for pedestrians and cyclists, new landscaping, public art and open space for community events.

The bridge project was awarded Enterprise M3 LEP funding as part of the “Unlocking Guildford, Guildford Town Centre Transport Package” in 2014.

This project forms part of long-term council plans, supported by Surrey County Council, to improve links within and around Guildford by providing improved travel routes for cyclists and pedestrians.

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth (R4GV, Pilgrim), a former leader of GBC, was a vociferous opponent from the outset. He reacted to the news: “A new Walnut Bridge doesn’t justify £5 million of taxpayers’ money.

“The current bridge needs a coat of paint but looks structurally sound. The new bridge is expensive, premature and an undistinguished design.

“Will it provide segregated safe space for cyclists and pedestrians to prevent collisions on Bridge Street? How will it fit in with whatever happens at Bedford Wharf? It’s ‘A Bridge Too Far’ in the continuing war about how best to spend our hard-earned money.”

Sallie Barker

But Sallie Barker, chair of the Guildford Conservative Association, said: “We are delighted the bridge work is starting, despite R4GV having campaigned since their formation to prevent it.

“The bridge was conceived, designed, budgeted for, and funded under the previous Conservative administration, who developed the vision for the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and Sustainable Movement Corridor and secured the Enterprise M3 LEP funding.

“We look forward to seeing our vision being translated into action with the new landscaping, open Bedford Plaza, seating areas and opportunity for community events.

“And, of course, the new wider and safer Walnut Bridge across the Wey which will provide an improved route into the town centre for everyone.

“We also look forward to other town improvements developed under the previous Conservative administration being implemented in the near future.”

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test 9 Responses to Wey Towpath Diversion as Work Starts on New Walnut Bridge

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 3, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    A real waste of money, a bridge to nowhere.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 4, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Deputy council leader Caroline Reeves (Lib Dem, Friary & St Nicolas), said: “….include a sweeping ramp and steps down to the Plaza…”.

    A sweeping ramp? It is a folded ramp that requires a 90-degree turn and then a 180-degree turn followed by another 90-degree turn for cyclists, buggies, wheelchairs and physically challenged pedestrians who are not able to use the steps – all mixed in this unsegregated flow. Accidents are waiting to happen between young enthusiastic riders hurtling down the ramp.

    I believe the bridge as designed is 4.0m wide. Whilst maybe not quite conforming to the standards, it could be marked to segregate a 2m wide pedestrian side and a 2m wide cycle lane side. The 3.5m wide ramps are narrower and hence pose a slightly greater danger if the cycle lane side is maintained at 2m and the pedestrian side then effectively reduces to 1.5m wide.

    To resolve this problem, I wonder whether the existing bridge should be retained (repainted and refurbished as necessary) and connected to the new one at the Plaza end and thus maintain wider pedestrian capacity.

    It could be signed for pedestrians to say the new bridge is to the Plaza direction and the old bridge to return to Walnut Tree Close?

  3. Nigel Burke Reply

    February 4, 2021 at 10:12 am

    As far as I can tell, cyclists will walk from the station to the bridge, cycle over the bridge, then walk to the town centre. Does GBC have any plans for a complete cycle route, otherwise what is the point of spending £5m on a “cycle-friendly” bridge?

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 7, 2021 at 9:56 am

      Complete cycle routes cannot be created in Guildford without finding a way to deal with all traffic holistically.

      I have been advocating plans that progressively deal with congestion and within these create space for cycle routes through more efficient use of the existing road network and building new routes and bridges.

      Please see my ideas explained in a document that can be found in https://tinyurl.com/traffic-and-buses

      New infrastructures obviously require investment and these should be planned now; although the pandemic has changed the current traffic pattern, we all hope things will get better and usual congestion issues will reappear.

      My website discusses congestion, bus station and possible improvement plans both in the town centre and the A3. I have been developing this website continuously since 2008.

    • Martin Elliott Reply

      February 7, 2021 at 7:36 pm

      It seems not, judging by the concepts of the North Street Regeneration on traffic changes.

      I say they should:

      Close roads and change/extend one-way of North Street.

      Move the “transport hub” bus station further from the “transport hub” railway station.

      Draw impractical pedestrian routes in red lines for the still non-obvious, non-24hr route through The Friary to Bedford Plaza.

      Forget it. This bridge is still a political vanity project of increasing costs and matching the original design requirement less and less for mother/child and cycle accessibility.

      For a contemporary(?) design, such as the one they have, they could have saved £2 million by reusing the Stoke Crossroad bridge and ramps.

    • George Potter Reply

      February 10, 2021 at 11:41 am

      The missing piece of the puzzle here is the Guildford College Link cycle path, which goes to the left, past the cinema, when cyclists arrive on the town centre side of the river.

      I’m not sure exactly how far along the Link route has progressed, but it is underway, and the idea is that this route, in combination with the new bridge, should provide a proper cycle route to the college from the railway station, as well as then making it possible for further linking up to the Stoke crossroads and Stoke park cycle routes.

      More details can be found here:

      https://www.surreycc.gov.uk/roads-and-transport/roadworks-and-maintenance/roadworks/guildford-college-link

      This won’t, obviously, make cycling access to the town centre any easier right now but having a cyclist friendly bridge will obviously make it possible for better access from the bridge to the town centre to be provided in future.

  4. Gina Gasson Reply

    February 8, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    Why don’t they put the bus station here in the “Plaza”, close to the station with flats over? And in Leapale – how much nicer it would be to have occupied residences.

    Now that would be sensible.

  5. A J Ferenczy Reply

    March 28, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    Yet another £450K now having to be piled into this massive folly of a white elephant. Just beggars belief that money is being wasted on this scale, yet again. Another incredible fiasco just like The Village (twice). Plus ca change…

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