INCREASING the weight limit on Marlow Bridge is not the right way forward, according to a group committed to preserving the town.
Martin Blunkell, chairman of the Marlow Society, responded to Marlow inspector Scott Messenger’s calls for a discussion over the right limit for the iconic structure to allow families with large 4x4 vehicles to cross.
As featured in last week’s MFP, Marlow’s top-ranking police officer said if a study were to show the bridge capable of taking more weight, then a higher limit of three and a half tonnes may be more suitable.
The Marlow Society, which was originally founded to protect the bridge, lobbied Thames Valley Police to carry out last year’s enforcement operation which saw large 4x4s turned away on approach.
And chairman Mr Blunkell said raising the limit would simply shift the problem and tempt even larger vehicles to attempt to cross the bridge, adding motorists have a responsibility to know their own vehicle’s weight.
He said: "We have confidence that the police are doing their best to uphold the law and we recognise the issue.
"But we rely on the good will and the common sense of Marlow people to look after their most precious asset, as there is little money available to repair it if it gets damaged."
Readers have responded to Insp. Messenger’s call for a debate over the historic three-tonne limit, with many insisting the existing restrictions should remain.
Station Road resident Richard Hunt suggested instead of a change to the weight limit, the authorities should consider reducing crossing traffic to one way at a time to reduce weight stress and increase flow.
He said : "With all the projected expansion in our already overcrowded Thames Valley, traffic will gridlock even more. Save the pressure on our bridge if needed by single file movements only on the bridge at any one time, this in turn will reduce the stress weight by as much as 50 per cent during busy times.
"Save and sign our bridge in a sensible way and it will give us all a second way out to the A404 bypass."
Other suggestions include installing cameras on the bridge to catch and fine overweight vehicles, though this is prohibited given the structure’s Grade I listed status.
Bucks Councty Council, the highways authority, insisted any change to weight restrictions would need to be carefully investigated but said it is prepared to work with police towards an "appropriate outcome".
Marlow’s suspension bridge was designed by Willian Tierney Clark and opened in 1832, and is a smaller scale version of Budapest’s famous Széchenyi Chain Bridge spanning the River Danube.