What’s this all about then?
Late on Saturday 24th September, a 37 tonne lorry somehow managed to force its way over Marlow Bridge, which has a 3 tonne limit. The bridge was closed to traffic due to the need to assess it for structural damage.
This page was used to record updates as they happened – including the concerns that if the damage was significant, the bridge would be closed for several more months for repairs. However, as in the end, the bridge was declared structurally sound, and safe to reopen. Hurrah!
Oldest stories are at the bottom of this article, then just work your way up to relive the drama 🙂
Friday 25th November – First car passes after opening ceremony.
That’s it! I think we have reached the end of updates needed for this page. Buckinghamshire County Council Chairman Val Letheren cut the ribbon to reopen the bridge, and then was in the first car to drive over with Town Mayor Bob Johnson. Phew!!! Below is a short clip from a longer BBC local news item, and there is was a decent summary on ITV news which can be viewed in full here.
Marlow bridge re-opens following repairs after overweight lorry caused damage in September. pic.twitter.com/5xxtePvhPr
— BBC Radio Berkshire (@BBCBerkshire) November 25, 2016
The official Reopening Press Release from Bucks County Council in full:
In the driving seat was Buckinghamshire County Council Chairman Val Letheren, who had just cut the ribbon to celebrate the reopening.
Watched by a crowd of around 100, the Chairman then invited Town Mayor Bob Johnson, to join her to become the first car to drive cross the iconic suspension bridge since its closure.
‘This is a great day for Marlow residents and traders,’ said Val. ‘I’m so pleased we’ve been able to open the bridge in time for the Christmas shopping period.’
Mark Shaw, County Council Cabinet Member for Transport, said the inspection and testing regime had needed to be rigorous and thorough to ensure the safety and security of people who use it.
‘The bridge is very special to the people of Marlow and Bisham,’ said Mark. ‘I’m very grateful for the utmost care our engineers have taken with their tests, which I know is exactly what people would expect of us.
‘I’m sure today’s opening is the best present we could have given the people of Marlow for Christmas.’
The cost of the five weeks of inspection, testing and reporting is expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds, which Mark said would be covered by the insurers of the Lithuanian haulage company, Girteka, whose lorry crossed the bridge on September 24.
Engineers say the three-tonne weight restriction will remain, and recommend replacement of one of the suspension hangers and pins supporting the approach road deck.
Simon Dando, Transport for Buckinghamshire’s Contract Director, said the replacement, and any other minor adjustments needed, could be done later.
Simon said the engineers’ team was indebted to Marlow resident Robin Atkinson, a Fellow of the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers, for shortening the time taken on testing.
‘Robin had created a computer model of Marlow Bridge that showed how it behaved under certain conditions,’ said Simon. ‘Access to this modelling helped us pinpoint the areas we needed to inspect and test.’
Marlow Bridge, opened in 1832, was substantially rebuilt in the 1960s and strengthened with longitudinal girders, which, says Robin Atkinson, saved the bridge from more damaging stress than might otherwise have been caused by the 37-tonne lorry.
Thursday 24th November – Mary Berry interviewed about the bridge on BBC
After Mary had switched on our Christmas Lights, she conducted a brief interview including the topic of the bridge reopening.
— BBC Radio Berkshire (@BBCBerkshire) November 25, 2016
Wednesday 16th Nov – OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION OF REOPENING
Here is the Bucks County Council Press Release in full:
Marlow Bridge, which has been closed to traffic since September 24, is to reopen – weather permitting – on Friday November 25.
The decision follows the outcome this week of structural engineering tests, which have been carried out since a 37-tonne lorry tried to cross the bridge.
Engineers’ rigorous inspection, ultrasound and magnetic particle testing revealed no serious damage. In the coming week, they will restore sections exposed for weld testing with three coats of paint, remove scaffolding surrounding the bridge’s two towers, and reinstate timber work removed for inspection.
Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Transport Cabinet Member, was delighted. ‘We needed to make sure the bridge was safe and secure for all to use before opening it, and I’m pleased the engineers’ go-ahead has come ahead of the Christmas trading period.’
Engineers have been examining every part of the structure since the lorry, owned by the Lithuanian haulage company Girteka, tried to cross the bridge on Saturday September 24. A special inspection platform and a river barge were commissioned to enable testing above and below the road deck.
The 19th century bridge, which has a three-tonne weight limit, has been closed to vehicles since, although open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Richard Scott, local County Councillor for Marlow shared Mark’s delight at the opening of the bridge. ‘Christmas is a very important time for the town’s retailers, so this will come as a great relief to them, he said. ‘Residents, visitors and commuters will also be pleased that traffic congestion on the Marlow bypass will be considerably reduced.’
Wednesday 16th Nov – IT WILL BE OPEN NEXT WEEK!!!
More details to follow, but how about just enjoying the tweet that broke the news 🙂
— MyMarlow.co.uk (@MyMarlowUK) November 16, 2016
Wed 9th November – Group formed to make Claim on behalf of affected businesses
IMPORTANT news for Marlow businesses affected by the bridge closure. A group has been formed, with backing of Marlow Town Council, with the aim of making a claim against Girteka. Meeting tomorrow (Thu 10th) with specialist loss assessors with a track record in similar claims, affected businesses wishing to claim should attend. Lots more detail in the article of course…
Mon 31st October – Inspection Barge being put in place
With the mist lifting on an autumnal Monday morning, an inspection barge glided slowly into place beneath Marlow Bridge for the final stage of structural engineering tests.
The specialist barge has a hydraulic hoist on board to allow ultrasound and magnetic particle tests to continue below the road deck during the coming fortnight. The engineers need to remove decades of paint layers from the metalwork to expose bare metal for these tests.
The analysis report should be completed mid-November. If this recommends replacing sections of the bridge, specially manufactured parts could take up to 12 weeks to make and a further eight weeks to install.
‘This bridge is special to Marlow and Bisham, and residents I spoke to as we watched the barge move into position appreciated the measures we’ve taken to ensure no further damage is caused’ said Mark Shaw, Buck CC Transport Cabinet Member.
‘We’re nearing the final analysis report, and as soon as we’re able, we want to get repairs underway to make the bridge safe and secure for vehicles.’ Mark said loss adjusters from the Lithuanian transport company’s insurers had been in contact and would cover the cost of repairs.
The bridge remains open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Wed 19th October – Inspection barge ordered for Marlow Bridge testing
This week it became clear that seven areas of concern already identified would need more focused testing to establish whether suspension hangers need replacing. Above the road deck engineers are building an access platform, but below the deck a river barge has been requested to allow more intense testing of the highlighted areas on underside of the bridge.
Contract Director Simon Dando said these more focused tests could be carried out only by removing decades of paintwork from the suspension bridge’s metalwork, and that engineers were working with the Environment Agency to cordon off a safety exclusion zone around the barge. Above deck tests will be carried out during half term holiday week (w/b October 24), while engineers will use the barge to access the underside of the bridge the following week (w/b October 31). They will analyse their findings during the first week in November.
If they recommend replacing sections of the bridge, specially manufactured parts could take up to 12 weeks to make and a further eight weeks to install.
Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council Cabinet Member for Transport said: ‘I’m sorry that we need to close the bridge to vehicles, but the risks to engineers’ safety, not to mention the potential of additional damage to the structure, make it imperative that we keep it clear of traffic until we know the extent of damage and what repairs are needed.’
Wed 12th October – more detail on the current detailed testing!
Engineers investigating possible damage to the bridge have found seven structural areas that need further detailed testing. Ultrasound testing and magnetic particle inspections were commissioned by Bucks County Council earlier this week for detailed examination of the suspension bridge’s vertical steel hangers.
Testing will continue next week and structural engineers plan to build a small access platform to enable them to more closely examine the bridge steelwork. Once analysed, the results will reveal whether or not the suspect steel hangers and pins need to be removed for further testing or replacement.
Contract Director Simon Dando said that if the test results clearly showed steelwork needed replacing, specially manufactured parts could take up to 12 weeks to make and a further eight weeks to install.
Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: ‘We’re not at this point yet, and we’re still undertaking exhaustive tests. But we need to be realistic about a worst case scenario to keep residents and traders in Marlow and Bisham in the picture. ‘I appreciate the inconvenience of this closure, and I’m sorry it’s needed. We want the bridge open to vehicles as soon as possible, but we must be absolutely sure that it’s safe and secure for those who use it.’
County Council officers are researching techniques used by errant lorry drivers to get through width restrictions, to see whether additional measures should be considered for Marlow Bridge.
Tuesday 11th October – Girteka donates to Marlow’s Christmas lights
Girteka Logistics, the company whose vehicle attempted to cross Marlow Bridge has made a donation towards the town’s Christmas lights as a gesture of goodwill.
Marlow Town Council met with Kristian Kaas Mortensen of the Lithuanian company last week. Town Mayor Cllr Bob Johnson said: “This donation is entirely separate from the legal settlement for the damage to the bridge, or any other claims in relation to the bridge closure. Girteka Logistics has offered us this donation to the Christmas lights fund for the benefit of the whole town.”
Mr Mortensen said: “We regret sincerely the damage to Marlow’s bridge and the inconvenience caused to residents and businesses. This donation is made in the spirit of goodwill towards the town, by way of an apology to everyone for what happened.”
Detailed investigations, including stringent testing, are under way by Bucks County Council to ascertain the extent of the damage to the bridge and get it back in working order as soon as possible.
Thursday 6th October – Town Centre is STILL open!!
The signs, which have been funded by Sorbon Estates and approved by Bucks Highways, will state “MARLOW TOWN CENTRE IS FULLY OPEN FOR BUSINESS” and will be positioned alongside diversion signs.
Bob Johnson, Marlow’s Mayor, said: “We understand the concerns of Marlow’s businesses and hope these signs will help in encouraging people to visit the town while the bridge is being repaired.”
Wednesday 5th October – Concerns after structural survey
Structural surveyors, inspecting Marlow Bridge during the past week, have found supports above and beneath the road surface that are likely to have been ‘significantly overstressed‘ and have recommended further tests.
Further investigation, expected to start later this week, will involve ultrasound and magnetic particle inspections on the bridge’s suspect vertical hangers and pins. Results are expected next week. From the analysis engineers will know whether they need to remove these bridge parts for further testing, and results from these could be available within a month.
Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Transport Cabinet Member said: ‘I do understand the inconvenience this means for our residents and businesses, but I do know that nothing less than the most stringent of tests and analysis would be expected of us so that we’re absolutely certain about the repairs needed to get the bridge back into a safe working order.
‘We’ve got highly experienced engineers working on these exhaustive tests, which will take some time, and I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. We’re aiming to get the bridge open to vehicles as soon as possible, but my chief concerns are the safety and security of those who use it.’
While tests are being done the bridge will be kept open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Mark said he had spoken withLithuanian haulage company Girteka, which had given an unreserved apology, and assured him its insurance would cover repair costs.
Tuesday 4th October – BBC build up coverage
In addition to the BBC local news coverage mentioned below, the local BBC radio station created a short “story so far” video, which they shared on Twitter. Included some of our photos, as the credit at the beginning makes clear 🙂
— BBC Three Counties Radio (@BBC3CR) October 4, 2016
Tuesday 4th October – Lorry driver is fired, BBC reports
They also published other updates, catching up on the story – including screenshots of comments from Girteka on our Facebook page. We are very flattered!
Also, Bucks County Council advised that further investigation is set to take place this week, involving ultrasound and magnetic particle inspections. The analysis will help engineers assess whether parts of the bridge need to be removed for further testing…
Monday 3rd October
The Times picks up on the story, as the news goes national…
Tuesday 27th 3:40pm – could be “closed for months”
The Bucks Free Press have reported that Mark Shaw, Bucks County Council cabinet member for transport, has now said it could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair and in a “worst case scenario” the bridge could be closed for months.
He is quoted as saying: “We have already started putting in insurance claims to the company the driver belongs to. Clearly it is down to them to pay, not the residents of Marlow or indeed Buckinghamshire. Depending on what is thrown up by our investigations, a worst case scenario is four to six months it could be closed, but I stress this is the worst case. We are hoping the damage is not going to be as bad as that.”
More details in the Bucks Free Press article
Monday 26th Sep 2pm – Transport for Bucks update
As reported on http://tfblatestnews.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/september-26th-marlow-bridge-closure.html , there is evidence of damage 🙁
“The inspection is still ongoing but initial findings show evidence of overstressing on key structural parts of the bridge (the abutment bearing and on the steel hangers from the chain). Based on these initial findings, for safety reasons the bridge will remained closed while further specialist testing/investigation is completed, so we can fully understand the extent of damage caused by the HGV.
We are happy that the footway on one side remains open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Until a full investigation is completed, we will be unable to assess the damage and how long the bridge may need to remain closed to traffic.”
Monday 26th Sep 10am – official responses to our social media followers:
Heidi Cooper and Nick Edwards posted some questions to Girteka, with positive responses
Monday 26th Sep – 9am
We received a comment on our original Facebook post from the chief Communications Officer of Girteka Logistics as below:
Monday 26th Sep – early hours of the morning
The owners of the lorry apologies via Twitter
— Girteka Logistics (@GirtekaLogistic) September 26, 2016
Sunday 25th Sep – early evening
The official word is tweeted … bridge closed for the foreseeable future
MARLOW BRIDGE CLOSED due to potential structural damage. Will remain closed for foreseeable future. Will update tomorrow, Monday.
— Transport for Bucks (@tfbalerts) September 25, 2016
Sunday 25th Sep – 8.48am
During our early morning walk to have breakfast in town we were shocked to see the bridge closed, and the reason was very close by……
This post was shared widely, and has since been seen by 18,000 Facebook users.