Worries over safety of Beccles bridge

Beccles, Suffolk.

Beccles, Suffolk. - Credit: Archant

Concerns have been raised about the safety of a bridge in Beccles which provides the main gateway in and out of the town.

The old Beccles bridge, which connects Bridge Street to the Gillingham Dam, has signs at both ends warning drivers that it is weak and can only support a maximum weight of 7.5 tonnes.

However, during a 19-hour survey undertaken by the Northgate Neighbourhood Society – a community-minded neighbourhood group – members found that there are often at least four vehicles crossing over the bridge at the same time, sometimes including double-decker buses and lorries, amounting to what they believe is more than double the maximum weight.

Andrea Downes, secretary of the society, said she was “absolutely stunned” at the size and amount of vehicles which passed over the bridge during their survey and members are now keen to find out whether continued excessive weight travelling over it will lead to it becoming a danger to motorists.

Miss Downes said: “There has got to have been a reason why they put a maximum weight on the bridge.

“How there has never been an accident on there I don’t know because it’s not just the amount of cars it is the speed they fly over there too.

“We think there needs to be some sort of monitoring to stop these large vehicles using the bridge as a way into and out of the town.”

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Miss Downes said one suggestion was to introduce traffic lights to only allow one lane of traffic over the bridge at once, like the system used at the bridge in St Olaves.

Monty Pitkin, who lives next to the bridge, said heavy vehicles travel over the bridge on a day-to-day basis and he has written a letter to Gillingham Parish Council to express his concerns.

He said: “We’ve seen a growing number of vehicles that appear to be over the weight using the bridge and we are very concerned that quite a number of them seem to be putting their foot down as they get to the crest of the bridge. It is only a 20mph limit and some cars seem to be doing 40mph or 50mph.”

During the survey, a total of 5,162 vehicles crossed the bridge between 6am and 1am the next day, including 67 double-decker buses which are thought to weigh about 12.5 tonnes unladen. Members recorded the direction of traffic, the quantity and type of vehicles using the bridge over the continuous 19-hour period and the results have now been passed on to Suffolk County Council.

A spokesman from county council said they were awaiting the correspondence and would consider the information in due course.

They added: “The 7.5T weight restriction was implemented following a structural assessment that indicated that the bridge was not capable of carrying full 40T highway loading safely in accordance with design standards.

“Clearly, if drivers choose to disregard any structural weight restriction, they will be putting themselves and other road users at risk. The degree of risk is difficult to quantify, however there are factors of safety built into the current arrangements with a 7.5T weight restriction in place, which will provide a level of protection to road users and the bridge itself in the event of drivers abusing the signed weight restriction.