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Annual Parish Meeting talk on the Cookham Bridge - 29/03/2000

Mr Stephen Brown the Royal Borough's Engineering Manager who has been managing the repair of the bridge

Mr Stephen Brown, Engineering Services Manager at the Royal Borough attended the Annual Parish Meeting at Cookham Rise School to talk about the repairs to Cookham Bridge.

Mr Brown described the reasons that the bridge needed to be repaired and the choices that could have been made including doing nothing, which would have meant that the bridge would eventually not have been useable, also building a new bridge, which would have not only have been too costly, but also would not have been acceptable to English Heritage, as the bridge is Grade II listed. The final alternative was to repair the current one. He said that there had been some slippage due to things that had been uncovered that were not known when the work started, so the current plan was to re-open the bridge on 20 June 2000.

A piece of the bridge showing the bad deterioration
Mr Pat Walsh from Babties, who were project managing the repair of the bridge, then spoke about the state of the bridge. He said that the two main girders showed some amount of deterioration and showed a piece of one of the girders for everyone to see. He said that one of the particular problems was the wrought-ironwork which had been used to build the bridge. This was an early form of steel. It caused particular problems for welding and needed skilled workmen to make repairs and they were also under a lot of constraint by English Heritage. He said that they had designed quite a unique system to support the structure, some of the structure had been repaired , but due to deterioration some had to be replaced altogether.

Mr Alan Swinger of Mowlem, the contractors, then spoke. He said that they had been brought in November 1999 and it had been a fast track programme. The contract had been that the contractors were paid costs plus a fee, as the design could not be finalised due to the particular problems of the bridge and not knowing exactly what needed to be done until work had started. He said that the project would take about six months, because of the problems of accommodating design needs and should open on the 20th June 2000. He said that it had been a very pleasant project as it was non adversarial and everyone had worked well together as a team.

Tony Prichard, Chairman of the Parish Council opening the Annual Parish Meeting
Mr Stephen Brown added that they were anxious to get traffic back on the bridge as soon as possible and were trying there best to speed things up and gain back on the slippage.

There then followed a series of questions from the floor: Cllr Pat Brockwell asked if there would be permanent traffic light and why was this decision made. Mr Brown replied there would be and the decision had been made after consultation with the public and various bodies, including the Parish Council. They had received eight hundred replies from adverts in the papers and leaflets being handed out and overall the idea of traffic lights were favoured. He added that the signals would be purpose designed.

Mr Brown was asked why the delay had occurred. He said that work had been uncovered that had not been expected, but now everything needing to be done was clear and there would be overtime to catch up. He added that the gas main that was bolted to the bridge could now be incorporated in the bridge, after consultation with Transco, which would improve matters.

A view of The Cookham Bridge
Mr Ivor Sayer asked about the state of the supports from the river-bed. Mr Brown said that these were not too bad. He said that the main repair was to the girders either side. Mr John Bowley asked if there would be any possibility to experiment with the traffic lights. Mr Brown replied that there would be and that they would be computerised with the facility to recognise buses.

Joan Somerville asked if the bridge had to be completely finished before traffic was allowed on it. Mr Brown said it would have to be, particularly as the casting of the deck would be one of the last things to be done.

Work taking place on Cookham Bridge
Cllr Tony Prichard asked which side the footpath over the bridge would be on. Mr Brown replied that it would be on the pub (the Ferry) side, with the gas main underneath it. Cllr Prichard also queried the lights regarding the phasing for buses. Mr Brown said that this would only be at peak times over a short period. Cllr Prichard then asked about the navigation routes. Mr Brown said that there had been agreement to close one of the two navigation routes on the river, but the two then had to be open from Easter onwards. Mr Nigel Sanders asked if the work being carried out at Boulters Lock would affect the bridge. Mr Brown said not really.

Cllr Gordon Harris asked if there would be a kerb or barrier on the footpath. Mr Brown said there would be a kerb and the path itself would be 5' 6" wide. Cllr Dick Arthur asked if the cyclists could also use the pedestrian pathway. Mr Brown said that it was not really wide enough, but that the bridge should be much improved for cyclists anyway.

Mr John Bowley asked about access to the Ferry under the bridge. Mr Brown said that they were very much hoping to get this. Mr Brown added that he very much hoped that the bridge would be ready on time and they were doing everything in their power to catch up on the slippage, but that the 20th June was the current date planned for re-opening the bridge.

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