A section of the Thames with few bridges could become a lot easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross if plans to convert a disused railway bridge for pedestrian use go ahead.
The disused bridge crosses the Thames at Barnes, which may confuse some people as the bridge there is in daily use by trains. That’s because little noticed by most people, this is actually two bridges. The railway bridge in use today was built in the 1890s, as a replacement for an earlier cast iron bridge that was built in 1849. That older disused bridge sits right next to the railway bridge, even though few people realise they are two separate structures.
There is an existing walkway on the live railway bridge side, but it’s narrow and lacks any step-free access options. It’s also, in theory, not open to cyclists.
A plan, supported by both councils on either side of the river is to open up the disused bridge as a wider pedestrian and cycle route, with gentle gradient slopes on either side to provide an accessible and pleasant way to cross the river. Another benefit is that on the southern side, the slope up to footbridge will also offer step-free access to the outward-bound platform at Barnes Bridge station that’s next to the railway bridge.
As the bridge will be open to cyclists, to discourage speeding while maintaining at least 2 metres of width along the route, the footpath meanders around planters and integrated seating.
The south side in Barnes is largely residential, while the north side in Hounslow is mostly fields and sports facilities. The river walk on the north side is also being upgraded at the moment with a new pedestrian path under the railway bridge to make that route easier to use. The architects who developed that new pedestrian link are the same as the ones working on this new project to open up the disused railway bridge, Moxon Architects, so they’re familiar with the area.
They also have support from Network Rail to carry out the plans.
The organiser’s official website says that the new bridge will also offer views of the annual Boat Race, as the existing narrow footbridge is closed on Boat Race day to prevent overcrowding.
The current estimate is that the project will cost around £3 million to complete. The bulk of the costs are for the step-free access at either end of the railway bridge, and then there’s landscaping work, moving some power cables from the live railway and restoring a Victorian turnstile at the Hounslow end. Studies have already been carried out on the structure, so they don’t anticipate any huge surprises there.
Subject to securing the funding, they expect to open the disused railway bridge to the public in 2026.