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Opinion : Marlow bridge is damaged – Is it time to demolish the old bridge and build a modern one?

| October 6, 2016


I’m sure everyone has heard the sad news about Marlow bridge being damaged when a 37-tonne lorry tried to cross.

With a vehicle weight limit of just 3 tonnes the 37-tonne lorry appears to have ‘significantly overstressed’ some of the supports that hold the bridge up.

The bridge has done the town of Marlow proud since it was opened in 1832. Of course the bridge we see today is not the first bridge across the Thames at Marlow, indeed the current bridge replaced a wooden bridge, located further downstream, which collapsed in 1828.

One day sooner or later a heavy lorry was going to attempt to cross and the inevitable was going to happen. The judgement day for the bridge just happened to be Saturday 24th September 2016.

Naturally the quaint, historic and without doubt beautiful bridge is loved by many people but let’s face the harsh reality, the bridge is unsuitable for modern traffic.

Yes, the bridge may look nice but it’s from a bygone era, designed for use by horses, carts and locals peddling over on bicycles with a piece of straw in their mouth rather than modern day juggernauts powered by large diesel engines.

We can all reminisce about the beauty of the bridge while sitting in a café beside the river eating buns and strawberry scones but even if the trusty old bridge is mended the chances are that, before long, another heavy lorry will come along and the bridge will be damaged again.

I fear it’s time to ask the question : ‘Is it time to demolish the old bridge and build a modern one capable of taking the weight of a fully laden lorry?’

So I hear you say : ‘The bridge is a Grade I listed building, it’s protected so it can’t be demolished!’. Well, the goods shed in the forecourt of High Wycombe railway station was also listed but the great and good allowed part of that to be demolished simply because it blocked the view of the station for anyone coming up Amersham Hill.

Just think how beneficial it would be to Marlow to have a modern bridge in their town. Lorries could cross The Thames easily rather than having to go miles out of their way. A new bridge would make the town more attractive to business and manufacturing industry thus increasing Marlow’s prosperity.

I recently took a trip to Marlow to inspect the bridge for myself. There is currently renovation work taking place on the historic structure however I was shocked to see how much rust there is on the bridge.

Just look at the pictures below. There’s rust on the handrail :


There’s rust on the bolts holding the bridge together, including (in the top right of the picture below) a crack where the paint and presumable a layer of rusty metal is flaking away :


There’s even rust on the ornamental lights adoring the entrance to the bridge :


More worryingly there is a big gap where presumably a piece of rubber spacer has disappeared between two sections of the bridge, however it should be said that this may be subject to repair under the renovation works currently taking place on the structure :


Quite honestly the bridge is in a shocking state and the question needs to be asked if demolition and replacement with new is a better option than expensive repairs?

Here in Wycombe we have had many pieces of civic infrastructure cruelly taken from us including historic buildings and fountains however Marlow seems to have been mollycoddled over the years.

Even Wycombe’s magnificent Abbey Way flyover is coming under scrutiny from the powers that be. Indeed recently the eastbound carriageway has been reduced to just one lane over safety fears and traffic diversion works, dubbed ‘the Masterplan‘, are ongoing to provide an alternative route for traffic through Wycombe town centre.

If Wycombe has to sacrifice then Marlow should too. Let’s see a ‘Masterplan for Marlow‘ to improve vehicular access to the town with a new bridge capable to taking modern day traffic.

In my opinion spending money repairing a busted bridge has echoes of King Canute associated with it. The bridge may be mended today but in this modern world it could be broken again tomorrow.

What do you think?

*My blogs are published every Tuesday and Friday evening around 8.00pm here on the WycombeToday.com website.

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