The present Whitchurch Bridge
The present Whitchurch Bridge is the third to be constructed at the site. It was designed by Joseph Morris and built in 1902 by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company Ltd.
Whitchurch Bridge carries the B471 over the River Thames between Pangbourne in West Berkshire, and Whitchurch-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. It lies within the civil parish of Whitchurch-on-Thames, which in turn lies within the district of South Oxfordshire and the county of Oxfordshire.
The Bridge is subject to a statutory weight limit of 7.5 tonnes mgw. Access to the Bridge is restricted by a low railway over-Bridge (11 feet headroom) on the Pangbourne (south) approach, and limiting road widths and a steep hill in Whitchurch-on-Thames. Carriageway width is 5.18m, and there is a single footway on the west (upstream) side of 1.3m width.
The Bridge is a four span continuous structure with cast iron trestle piers and brickwork abutments. There are two end spans, each 20.3m in length, and two inner spans of 20.75m. The north abutment has a fixed connection to the deck: the south abutment has elastometric rubber bearing pads. The main wrought iron plate girders are fixed to the cast iron column heads (also called "pier caps") with bolted connections.
Each of the four spans is constructed of two main wrought iron longitudinal plate girders, with smaller section transverse wrought iron girders, supported on brick abutments and three river piers, each consisting of two piles with transverse cross-bracing. The carriageway is supported by wrought iron buckle plates between the transverse girders, overlaid with concrete. The parapet is of wrought iron latticework construction incorporated as part of the main longitudinal girders.
The Bridge has been subject to various strengthening improvements in the 1920's, 40's and 70's, including additional bracing around the column heads and between the pier columns.
Upstream fenders each consisting of three braced 300 X 300mm wooden piles at each pier have been in place for many years, and downstream fenders - to protect the Bridge piers from boat collisions - were added in 2005. The headroom for river traffic is 3.95m (summer river level), and the maximum depth of water under the Bridge is 4.4m, under the southern span.
Whitchurch Bridge lies within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Whitchurch-on-Thames Conservation Area, and is a Grade II listed structure for planning purposes. The local Planning authority is South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).
The Whitchurch Bridge Company's professional adviser on Bridge engineering issues is Oxfordshire County Council (OCC). The Bridge is subject to regular inspections by specialist contractors, supervised by the Company’s professional advisers at OCC, to monitor its condition.
The Bridge is coming to the end of its useful life, and the Company plans to reconstruct it in 2013-2014: click here for details.
Pangbourne Approach Road (updated 25th April 2013)
The Company has responded to local concerns about pedestrian safety on the Pangbourne approach road by commissioning a Feasibility Study into what could be done to upgrade the footways on the approaches to the Bridge to increase footway and roadway widths and to reduce crossing points etc.
As part of informal consultations with Pangbourne and Whitchurch-on-Thames Parish Councils, the Company produced a Stage 2 Options Document. This document was used as a basis for consultations in 2012 with West Berkshire Council (as local Planning Authority), and the conclusions were:
a) any upgrade work, including the relocation of the footway to the downstream side of the Bridge, should preferably include widening of the roadway and the provision of a verge on the non-footway side. Such works would require Planning Permission. There is insufficient time to obtain this before the completion of tender documentation for the reconstruction of the Bridge in December 2012, so there will be no change in the position of the footway on the Bridge during the reconstruction of the Bridge.
b) if land is to be acquired for widening the Pangbourne approach road, West Berkshire Council favours taking land from the Adventure Dolphin side rather than the Boathouse Surgery side, as they consider that this would be less harmful to trees and the natural environment.
c) a) and b) together lead to Option 1B being the preferred Option from the Stage 2 Options Document.
d) the Company will not be in a position to financially commit to any works on the Pangbourne approach road until it after it has awarded the contract for the reconstruction of the Bridge in April 2013. The Company will not submit a Planning Application for any works until it is satisfied that such works are affordable, justified on risk management grounds, and good value for money.