Our work to provide a new wider, safer bridge across the River Wey from Walnut Tree Close to Bedford Plaza takes a step forward this week.

In order to start building the foundations of the new bridge, we will be closing off a small part of the towpath which will mean that pedestrians and cyclists need to take a short diversion. The existing bridge will remain open.

Deputy Leader of the Council, and Ward Councillor for Friary and St Nicolas, Cllr Caroline Reeves says:

“I’m pleased that work to improve this area of Guildford, and our already vibrant and prosperous town centre, is continuing. The wider and more accessible bridge will offer a safer route into the town by avoiding the narrow pavement on Bridge Street, which has been an accident black spot. It will also improve railway station and riverside access and transform Bedford Plaza.

“We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused by the works and this diversion, but when finished the new bridge will be fully DDA-compliant and will be of particular benefit to residents in the Walnut Tree Close area and the students and staff who frequently walk to and from County School. It will be the first new bridge in the town in many years and will also include a sweeping ramp and steps down to the Plaza which will open up and transform the whole area. The new landscaping around the site will complement the structure and ensure the space is welcoming and encourages people to not only walk and cycle from the station into the town centre but to use the area as somewhere to sit and relax.”

She continues: “The plans are a key part of our Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and active transport initiatives. As more people look to reduce their impact on the environment, improving the options for walkers and cyclists is a priority for us as part of our plans to address climate change, reduce reliance on cars and alleviate congestion in the Town Centre.”

A section of the towpath on the west bank of the River Wey will be closed from Wednesday 3 February until Friday 9 July. The diversion will be in place from the YMCA to the south and along Walnut Tree Close to Aquatico at the north end.

To follow the diversion, exit the towpath via the alleyway opposite the southern entrance to The Mews, and continue south along Walnut Tree Close to Guildford Station. Enter the Bridge Street underpass and take the steps adjacent to the YMCA to rejoin the towpath. This diversion is 500 metres long, 150 metres longer than the towpath route.

Step-free access can be gained by exiting the towpath at the railway bridge onto Woodbridge Meadows and walking south along Walnut Tree Close to Guildford Station. Enter the Bridge Street underpass and continue south along Park Street. Use the ramp at Onslow Street to rejoin the towpath. This step-free route covers the same distance as the towpath, at 1.2km.

Signs will be in place along the full length of the route to help guide pedestrians and cyclists. Access along the towpath up to the Walnut Bridge construction site will still be possible but people wishing to continue their journey past the site will need to follow the diversion as the steps beside Walnut Bridge will be closed.

Bedford Plaza will also remain closed, with access through to Guildford train station possible via a marked route.

The project will create a wider bridge across the River Wey and a landscaped plaza to offer an improved route into the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists by linking Walnut Tree Close at the train station to Bedford Plaza.

It will be a safer alternative to the crowded pavements of Bridge Street for residents, commuters and visitors, and a safer route to the town for the new residents who will be moving into accommodation further down Walnut Tree Close.

The bridge is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

As part of the scheme, new lighting and a newly-landscaped Bedford Plaza will make the area more appealing. The design includes places to sit and enjoy a peaceful moment at any time of day.

The scheme is a key part of the Council’s Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and Sustainable Movement Corridor initiatives and will include improving station and riverside access for pedestrians and cyclists, new landscaping, public art and open space for community events.

The bridge project was awarded Enterprise M3 LEP funding as part of the ‘Unlocking Guildford, Guildford Town Centre Transport Package’ in 2014. This project forms part of long-term plans developed by the Council and is supported by Surrey County Council to improve links within and around Guildford by providing improved travel routes for cyclists and pedestrians.