Serious concerns have been raised over the future of Marlow Bridge if drivers continue to flout weight restrictions.

An investigation into protecting the bridge from the threat of overweight vehicles has concluded that if drivers continue to drive heavy vehicles over the iconic bridge, it will affect the “function of the structure” and increase the frequency and cost of maintenance repairs.

It comes as a lorry was left with burst tyres after attempting to cross the bridge in November last year.

The incident happened less than a year after the bridge reopened following a two-month closure when a 37-tonne HGV tried to cross it.

Engineers from Transport for Bucks (TfB) undertook the safety study, which started in April last year, to give added protection to the three-tonne weight restricted bridge, in a bid to prevent another closure.

According to the study, there is “clear evidence” that vehicles in excess of the three-tonne weight limit “regularly use the bridge”, and that the current measures and enforcements do not prevent overweight vehicles from using the bridge.

The study also said the measures already in place “appear to be ignored/abused by some drivers” and are misunderstood by others.

Improvements include better width restriction features on approach, more visible signage throughout the town and a possible review of the weight limit.

Bosses say increasing the weight limit is a “complex and lengthy” process and would require a number of government approvals to implement.

Other options put forward in the study include installing a height restriction, which could stop some emergency vehicles crossing the bridge, installing vehicle activated signs which would show drivers an electronic message, and improving communication on the Bucks County Council (BCC) website.

It was also suggested that CCTV or Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras and software could be installed on either side of the bridge and be used as evidence against those who drive overweight vehicles over it.

TfB bosses said in the medium term the county council would look into the costs and feasibility of installing an “active management scheme” to deter drivers of heavy vehicles from crossing the bridge, which include weigh-in motion sensors and message signs.

In the long term the council will continue to petition the Department for Transport to allow police to issue fixed penalty notices to registered keepers of overweight vehicles using the bridge, and to raise the limit to 3.5 tonnes.

Mark Shaw, cabinet member for transportation at BCC, said: “Transport for Buckinghamshire’s report into Marlow Bridge covers a wide range of options, with some interesting recommendations made as to how to proceed in protecting this historic local landmark.

“The next step is to gather feedback on the report from all stakeholders, including councils and councillors, the Chamber of Commerce, and residents.

“Ultimately what we want to do is ensure the bridge is a functioning part of our road network and of benefit to local people, while protecting and preserving it for future generations.

“There’s a delicate balance to be struck, but we’ll get there.”