Farnham Road Bridge in Crisis

The Farnham Road Railway Bridge was initially constructed before 15 October 1849 when the Guildford to Godalming railway line was opened.

At the time of its construction, there was very little housing on the western side of the railway at Guildford. The bridge was a gateway into the town via a cart track across the Hog’s Back.

This map of Guildford’s Royal Park in the early 1600s shows the route along the Mount to the south of the park


By 1816, more than two hundred years later, the Farnham Road had been built (shown as New Road on the map below).

There is still very little development showing on the western side of the River Wey.

By 1835, Guildford was growing its industrial base – on 10 May 1844 the Guildford Junction Railway was authorised to construct a branch from there to the important manufacturing town of Guildford.

The line from Woking to Guildford opened on 1 May 1845.

By 1870 (the two plans below) the gasworks had arrived and the railway line from Guildford to Godalming had finally been opened on 15 October 1849.

In around 1885 or so Karl Benz is credited with inventing the automobile and so the Farnham Road Bridge had already been in situ for forty years before the first motor car was manufactured.

By 1896, the Clandon and Aldershot lines had been added.  We begin to see the first signs of a settlement to the east of the Farnham Road hospital.

The 1916 map (below) shows the railway lines in a similar configuration to today’s layout and so the cast iron section of the railway bridge must have been in place before 1916.

More development has taken place to the western side of the railway station, but still very limited.

By 1934, development on the western side of the railway was becoming quite substantial with much of Onslow Village having been developed by that time.

And here, looking at the town centre in 1938 we can see the roads as they were before Millbrook was opened and before York Road was extended to reach the Woodbridge Road.

Today, the Farnham Road Bridge carries much more (and heavier) traffic than it was ever designed to support, it remains the only crossing of the railway in the town centre and it cannot be a surprise to anyone who has seen bits of brick and dust dropping onto the tracks below when a heavy truck crosses it, that this bridge needs to be replaced.

The residential and commercial areas on the western side of the town, including the hospital, Cathedral, University, Research Park and much more besides rely on the Farnham Road Bridge to get across the railway into town, and Network Rail and Surrey County Council are discussing the need to close it to buses and trucks with immediate effect.

This is a known problem and the issue has been ducked too many times in the past.

Guildford Vision Group has a very interesting and worthwhile scheme to resolve this problem but this crisis has come along too soon for the solution to be implemented before the bridge needs major works just to stay open.