Why do Rochester’s bridges need to be refurbished?

Since the Rochester Bridge Trust was formed in 1391, it has had one main responsibility: to provide passage over, under or across the River Medway at Rochester.

To meet the absolute minimum for that responsibility, the Trust:

  1. Ensures the bridges are in good condition.
  2. Keeps the bridges open to traffic.

There are any number of other responsibilities to support this – such as respecting the area’s heritage and the requirements of listed buildings – but in its simplest of forms the two items in the above list are the priorities.

For those interested in history, the last time there wasn’t a bridge at Rochester was towards the end of the 14th century – when the Roman bridge collapsed – and it’s our job to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Rochester’s bridges are a key piece of infrastructure and the best way to reduce disruption in the future is to do our best to make sure no major maintenance is needed for a long time.

To do this the Trust takes the approach of providing the best quality long-term solution. This should increase the life of components – the bridges are much more than one solid piece – and maintain the integrity of the structure. This approach can often cost more in the short-term and means the Rochester Bridges Refurbishment will take a little longer than a quick-fix, but the long-term costs will be less and disruption to the public will also be reduced.

At this point we should probably also remind people the work is carried out at no cost to the public. Everything the Rochester Bridge Trust does is funded by its historic estate.

An example of the maintenance needed is bridge painting. Bridges are often painted to prevent their metal parts from corroding (that’s rusting to most people). Over time the paint will wear away, eventually revealing the metal underneath – this is normal, consider your own home and how scuffed internal walls can get then compare it to a busy, open air bridge.

If the exposed areas of metal are left untreated they will rust. If left long enough they will break. Repairing a broken structural item is much more dangerous, costly and disruptive than carrying out regular painting so selective re-painting of scuffed areas is one of the jobs we’ll be doing as part of the Rochester Bridges Refurbishment Project.

We’ll be telling you more about painting and other works – that you’ll hopefully find more interesting than watching paint dry – as our plans and works progress.