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Letter: Patching Up Farnham Road Railway Bridge is Not Good Enough

Farnham Road Bridge

From Bibhas Neogi

In response to: Bridge Plans Need Urgent Reconsideration

The Portsmouth railway line was extended to the south of Guildford in the 1840s. Roads that crossed the tracks were put over bridges, such as the Farnham Road Bridge but their widths depended on what was required for the horse-drawn carriages and pedestrian usage.

Many of these are brick arches over a pair of tracks. I do not know why the parapets here are made of steel panels but I guess the brick parapets were damaged and replaced by these.

The footway was only one metre wide and is now not safe for the increased usage, due to housing developments nearby. So the councils (SCC and GBC) decided to put up a new footbridge in 2003.

Network Rail would only replace bridges, when necessary, like for like and the cost of anything extra to bring these up to current standards have to be met by the Highway Authority, in this case, the SCC. It is a lot cheaper and quicker to install a footbridge rather than replace an existing bridge.

Farnham Road Bridge consists of brick arches and a steel bridge. I am not sure but I guess the steel bridge was erected replacing some of the brick arches to make way for the yard now replaced by the car park building.

The easternmost brick arch is weak and its deterioration is visible. Network Rail has decided to strengthen the bridge, it seems largely from underneath, to extend its life by apparently another 60 years with SCC contributing £4.5m. However, as pointed out by Maurice Barham, there would be no improvement of traffic lanes for pedestrians or cyclists.

As part of an overall improvement to heavily congested gyratory and unfriendly pedestrian environment of the town centre, this bridge should be replaced and not patched up for the foreseeable future. I wonder how this 60-year extended life was arrived at?

A new east-west crossing is urgently needed connecting Guildford Park Road to Woodbridge Road in order to reduce traffic in the gyratory. This then could also be used as a temporary route rather than a 4-kilometre diversion during removal and replacement of Farnham Road Bridge.

It would be a further enhancement if traffic from Onslow Street is removed and either put underground or taken round to the west of the tracks and back into Woodbridge Road.

An overall improvement to traffic in Guildford is needed for the town to thrive and continue to attract shoppers and visitors when the North Street redevelopment, the railway station development and other new housing in and around Guildford materialise. Let us hope the councils produce a real Local Plan, not just one long wish list.

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