When, rather a long time ago, I was stuck in an office most of the day I used
to think it would be more fun to drive a bus. But perhaps not a lot of fun if
the job took you to Bexley.
Pity the poor 229 driver. Non-stop disruption for most of the past five years. Narrowing the roads in Belvedere took best part of a year, constant disruptions in and around Elm Road, Sidcup. Bexley village closed or one-way countless times. Sidcup station, Arnsberg Way, Erith Road (A220), Harrow Manorway flyover, Abbey Wood’s Cross Quarter, Northumberland Heath. All subject to long term road disruption - or improvements, as Bexley council likes to call them.
Now there is to be a new one. The bridge over the River Cray is to be replaced. That should create widespread misery and once again the 229 drivers will be singled out for special attention. They run to within 60 metres or so of the bridge and would suffer the consequences of bridge closure.
The bridge is undoubtedly an old one and has long been the subject of a 7·5 ton weight limit - which no one enforces.
Not only does no one enforce it, Transport for London runs double deck buses over it every few minutes. Even an old Routemaster with no one on board would exceed the limit. A fully laden modern bus is three times too heavy for that bridge. Why was nothing done about it long ago?
My colleague Elwyn Bryant attempted to protect the bridge from abuse five years ago but no one was interested. Bexley council, his MP, James Brokenshire and the police. All turned their backs on him.
In June 2010 Elwyn wrote to Bexley council as follows…
I write to express my concern about the weak bridge in Bexley High Street near the Old Mill. I have reason to walk over the bridge most mornings and many times my wife and I have observed very heavy vehicles going over the bridge, although there is a 7·5 ton limit.
Is it possible that something can be done to stop heavy vehicles using the bridge? If this situation continues, sooner or later this bridge will be damaged and become dangerous., which will result in many thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent on repair, plus considerable traffic disruption.
The reply from Bexley council said nothing about the potential for damage and expense but instead referred Elwyn to the police who were said to be responsible for enforcement of the weight limit.
The police as you might imagine said they had neither the time nor the money to be bothered about weak bridges.
Elwyn wrote to his MP about Bexley council’s lack of concern for protecting the bridge and the probability it would result in a big bill for taxpayers. James Brokenshire excels at spewing out words which amount to nothing useful and provided Elwyn with another brilliant demonstration of that skill.
After so many blind eyes were turned the inevitable has happened. The bridge has been weakened by the constant abuse, not least by TfL, and Bexley residents are to be massively inconvenienced. Bexley traders will suffer yet another blow to their livelihoods (I am already in receipt of their emailed fears and opinions) and taxpayers will be lumbered with a big bill.
Elwyn Bryant’s surviving correspondence may be viewed here. And here and here. (One day I must go to see if I can improve his scanner.)
Image from Google maps. Click on announcement above for planning application. The new bridge will have the same 7·5 ton weight restriction.