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Opinion : Does Marlow Bridge need a height limit rather than a weight limit?

| November 28, 2016


It’s back! The Marlovians can one again cross the Thames on their beloved bridge after engineers declared the historic structure safe.

Thankfully the bridge, which dates from 1832 but was rebuilt in the 1960’s, only appears to have suffered minor damage when a 37 tonne juggernaut attempted to cross back on Saturday 24th September 2016.

My good self is an occasional visitor to Marlow, indeed there is nothing nicer than to partake in a little shopping in the lovely shops in Marlow High Street and town centre. If it happens to be a nice day then more often than not yours truly takes a wander up to Higginson Park and over to enjoy the views from the bridge.

While there was great panic back on Saturday 24th September 2016 I suspect that a good few ‘overweight’ vehicles that exceed the 3 tonne weight limit cross that bridge every day.

I fear the 37 tonner was unlucky at being caught because, correct me if I am wrong, but a wheel on the articulated monster was damaged when it failed to clear the width restriction bollards and the lorry ended up immobile and stranded at the mercy of the powers that be.

The simple fact is that many modern vans can carry payloads over 3 tonnes and they are narrow enough to be able to clear the width restriction and thus sneak over the bridge.

For example a well known vehicle manufacturer lists the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) (the maximum weight of the vehicle when fully loaded) of one of the most popular cargo vans on the roads of the UK as ranging from 2,700kg to 3,325kg (i.e 3.325 tonnes) when fully loaded. What’s more the towing capability depending on engine and GVM, can be up to another 2 tons fully loaded giving a total vehicle weight of over 5 tonnes.

My good self has often seen vans exactly the same as the one given in the example given above nipping over the bridge and wondered what the total vehicle weight, including payload, happened to be.

The bridge may have bollards enforcing a width restriction and signs showing the weight restriction however surely what the bridge actually needs is a height restriction being imposed so only cars, motorcycles and bicycles can cross?

Most public car parks have a height restricting ‘bar’ to stop large vehicles entering so surely a similar feature could be installed at the entrance to either side of Marlow bridge?

Alternatively, in this modern world of ANPR number plate reading technology it would be possible to create a newfangled system that read a vehicles number plate, looked up what type of vehicle was approaching, calculated the maximum possible gross weight of the vehicle and took appropriate action to perhaps lower a barrier to stop a potentially overweight vehicles from crossing?

It’s only a matter of time before another articulated monster, or even a fully laden van, tries to cross Marlow bridge and perhaps next time the people of Marlow may not be so lucky and their bridge may be damaged beyond repair which would be a shame.

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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