Since our posting on 30th January 2016 we have been regularly monitoring the movement of the bridge over the Downs Link on Elmbridge Road and liaising with Surrey County Council (SCC).

Elmbridge Bridge Repairs 29-04-16

On 2nd March, Adrian Clarke (Chartered Builder and Committee Member of the Society) revisited the site as one of our members had alerted us to work being carried out. A sub-contractor acting for Surrey County Council was filling in the cracks with a weak mixture of sand and cement. Adrian noted that a crack not yet filled in had bulged more since his previous visit.

Adrian Clarke at Elmbridge

Filling cracks with a weak mortar mix is a waste of money – it was purely a cosmetic job to hide a very real problem.

It is our view that the bridge abutments should be renewed now whist the arch is still sound. If Surrey County Council delay this work until one of the abutments completely fails, then the structural arch will tilt and once this happens the whole bridge will have to be demolished and completely rebuilt. This would be both extremely expensive and disruptive to village life for a very long time.

In July, another Cranleigh Society member was studying a Surrey County Council document on Dunsfold Park and was startled to see reference to “Downs Link bridge (which is in need of structural work”. Obviously we drew the Council’s attention to this but they played down its significance.

On 2nd August there was a bridge collapse in Leicestershire – a bridge not dissimilar in design to the Downs Link bridge. This prompted us to research other bridge collapses and our findings were sent to Surrey County Council in the forlorn hope that these failures would spur them into taking our concerns more seriously.

At this point we decided to notify our MP, Anne Milton, of the matter and she is being kept informed of developments.

On 8th August we received an email from Surrey County Council which they hoped “would allay our fears” – it does not! They referred to:

  • The Council’s “scheduled and ad hoc visual inspections do not indicate there has been movement in the cracks that are visible from ground level” – we say get a ladder! Also, there is no mention of the walls bulging!
  • The “bridge was strengthened in 2006 ensuring the structure was capable of carrying a 40T full highway loading for single lane traffic” – we want to know why no weight limit has been imposed – also the traffic is controlled by lights and it is quite feasible for a breakdown on the far side of the bridge, or a slow cyclist, to bring a following mini convoy of 40T grab trucks to a halt! Also, nearby Hewitts has just been approved for development – even more HGVs!
  • “We do not currently have any concerns about the structural integrity of the bridge” – we say that this totally contradicts what Surrey County Council stated in the Dunsfold Park document!

Also in August the Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) was published and this includes reference to the Downs Link bridge being rebuilt! We asked Surrey County Council to confirm this is correct but there was no response in their email of 16th November.

That email does refer to “seasonal movement of the wing wall foundations” which we find interesting. Structurally a bridge abutment is designed as a single composite component and if an abutment experiences cracking, then it is no longer acting as a single component – it is now two or more components and engineering performance is obviously compromised. This view is not accepted by Surrey County Council and they insist the bridge is safe – even though the Infrastructure Delivery Plan allows for it to be rebuilt!

Looking at all the photos again, we have noticed that the triangle of bricks within the crack looks different to the other bricks, perhaps suggesting that this section has failed before, was repaired and has failed again? We will investigate!

Elmbridge Bridge 23 Jan 2016

So this is where we are at right now but Cranleigh Civic Society will continue to monitor the bridge and do everything possible to ensure it is made “fit for purpose” for the traffic demands of the 21st century.

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