Ash road bridge project out to tender

Ash Road Bridge

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has announced on 28th June 2022 that the GBC Executive will put the construction of the Ash road bridge out to tender as a design and build contract. In the statement, the council warned that the budget for this project may need to rise as a result of multiple factors resulting in construction materials and labour costs increasing. 

Councillors approved a total budget of £33.77 million on 13 April 2021. However, after the competitive tender process councillors will discuss any budget and funding increases now that a year has passed since this budget was approved. GBC has stated that it does remain committed to delivering this project and is seeking to ensure the best value for money.

Why this bridge is needed

This development is part of Policy A31 of the 2019 Local Plan, which allocates land for new housing in Ash and Tongham. The Ash level crossing has been identified as a safety hotspot by Network Rail, which supports plans to close it. Network rail reports that the number of trains that travel through Ash has increased over the recent years with extra services on the North Downs line to Gatwick Airport, Reading, Redhill, Guildford and Farnham.

In the project description, GBC describes the project benefits will:

  • Improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists by removing the hazard posed by the present level crossing
  • Remove delays for the local community by easing traffic congestion
  • Help reduce traffic cutting through inappropriate residential and rural roads to avoid the level crossing
  • Alleviate increased traffic from current housing developments in Ash and Tongham

166 Trains per day

Network Rail reports that 166 trains per day are scheduled, which equates to approximately 7 per hour. That’s more than one every ten minutes. As Network rail reports each time a train forces the barriers down, cars and pedestrians are forced to wait 4 minutes. That’s 11 hours a day of cars sitting idling all through Ash.

Residents may wonder what is the environmental impact of having so many cars sitting pumping out fumes for 11 hours a day and what effect is all that pollution having on our children with all the schools in the vicinity?

Source: Network Rail showing 166 trains per day at the Ash Level Crossing

Project tender

The total budget for the road bridge project was £33.77 million, plus an additional £5.02 million for a footbridge to be provided by network rail. However, this is likely to need to be revised due to increased costs within the economy. The councils are not footing the whole project costs as The Homes England’s Housing Infrastructure Fund is contributing £23.9 million with additional funding for developers. If these contributions are not used, they will expire.

Lead Councillor for Regeneration, Cllr John Rigg, said:

“We have to make sure that we’re getting the best possible value for money for our residents. This important project comes at a very difficult time for the construction industry. It is a significant investment. We have secured valuable funding from Homes England’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. We also have contributions from developers. Price rises and uncertainties mean that we must check we get best value.”

“This process is likely to cause a delay. We remain committed to delivering this important piece of infrastructure for the borough. We are also continuing work to secure the approvals needed to build the road bridge. Our aim is to start on site in 2023 and complete the construction of the road bridge by Summer 2024.”

“We’ve made good progress on the project in recent months. The detailed design is nearing completion after further survey work. The key infrastructure legal agreements are being negotiated. We work with Surrey County Council and Network Rail. We rely on both key parties to help to deliver this project.

“The road bridge and planned footbridge will benefit the area. This will support the arrival of new housing. The plan is also to make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians and less congested for drivers. It will also improve air quality. The crossing barrier is currently down for up to 25 minutes every hour . We expect this will increase in line with anticipated increases in train services. This has a huge impact on local residents. Cars often queue for long periods with engines running. This is alongside pedestrian walkways used by children walking to school.

“We will keep residents informed as the proposals and project progress.”

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