A bridge too far?

Network Rail's plans for a crossing over the river Tillingham

On the face of it this proposal [for a new pedestrian river bridge and tunnel under the railway at Mill Bridge to replace the existing rail crossing – ed.] is a good idea, as it will improve the safety of pedestrians. I do have two main concerns, the first relating to the application itself, the second relating to the decision-making process for using public funding.

My first point. The documents submitted with the application are wholly inadequate. If I as an architect struggle to understand them, what hope for laypeople? There is no general arrangement plan, which would provide information on levels and gradients, nor is there a longitudinal section, so we cannot tell what the gradient of the path is and what implication that would have for less mobile people. The closed level crossing to the south-east side of the river is not included in the application site – why not?

There is no explanation as to how the height of the wall protecting the path underneath the bridge has been worked out, so there is a legitimate fear that the path is vulnerable to regular flooding. There is no information on whether the path or bridge are suitable for cycles, or a wider transport study to better understand the peak capacity requirement. Rother District Council should not be validating applications that are this poor.

My second point. There is within the Neighbourhood Plan a proposal for a new bridge and path to connect the schools and sports centre to Tilling Green, better known as the Rye Greenway and regularly discussed at town meetings. This has been costed at about £900,000 by East Sussex County Council. Even though ESCC currently holds £230,000 and Rother DC £45,000 towards the project, there is no realistic prospect of this project ever proceeding.

As some of you may be aware from recent national news coverage (and I’m slightly surprised this issue has not been covered in the local news!), ESCC is facing bankruptcy within three years unless services are cut to the bone. [We will be looking at this and the effect on Rye in a future issue – ed.]

Network Rail is publicly owned and funded, so who has made the decision that the bridge it is currently proposing at Mill Bridge, to achieve a marginal safety gain, is of a higher priority than the Rye Greenway bridge across the Tillingham River, at what one can assume is of a similar cost? Just as with our schools, there is a democratic deficit in the decision-making process, with our district councillors, county councillor and MP (all Conservatives, as is the Government) being utterly impotent or uninterested in how public money, precious as it is, is used locally

Image Credits: Network Rail.


  1. Please be aware, the proposal at Mill Bridge (to close the pedestrian level crossing and replace with a pedestrian bridge and tunnel) does not come out-of-the-blue. The concept was first raised several years ago (I can see MLAG’s records going back to March 2015, perhaps earlier) with on-site meetings between NR, Rye TC, Rother DC, MLAG and others taking place and then a public exhibition at Tilling Green Community Centre.
    I don’t believe there is a central national hierarchy of projects and wonder how that would work. Individual institutions have their own budgets, responsibilities and objectives.NR has a particular responsibility for rail safety and, as a declared nation objective, is removing level crossings where it can. Another two crossings will hopefully be removed before too long – the two crossings on the A259 to the east of Rye at East Guldeford.
    I defer completely to Dominic’s architectural/ structural knowledge and acknowledge that infrastructure projects have to satisfy detailed scrutiny and trust NR will be able to respond fully to Dominic’s and RTC’s detailed questions.

  2. I agree with all that Dominic Manning has said , but the motive of Network Rail is transparent , The rework of this rail crossing to facilitate their forthcoming faster , possibly electric , possibly track re-dualing .. Its their upgrade so that they can generate more revenue ,, rather cheeky to use public funds to pay for it ..!!

  3. Agree with Dominic.
    As far as I’m aware the proposals do not show gradients, width or headroom of the pedestrian tunnel. These structures can be intimidating if not properly designed and well lit, like the one under the A27 at Sussex university.
    I accompanied Dominic to one meeting about the greenway bridge and left disillusioned after an hour.
    It seemed to me there are dozens of reasons why worthwhile projects such as the Tillingham foot/cycle bridge can’t happen which, in the minds of ESCC, far outweigh any benefits, which should be obvious.


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