Boat Race focuses attention on Hammersmith Bridge

Image above: Hammersmith Bridge

Sunday Times asks: Why has no one fixed Hammersmith Bridge?

The Boat Race has focused attention on our bit of west London, prompting the Sunday Times to ask ‘Why has no one fixed Hammersmith Bridge’?

Transport editor Nicholas Hellen pointed out on Sunday it is nearly four years since the bridge was closed to motor vehicles because of hairline fractures in the pedestals. He says the lack of resolution is down to ‘buck-passing, a row over money and a shortage of good ideas’.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is now holding a series of drop-in events to showcase radical plans for a temporary double decker bridge, to allow traffic to pass over the upper level while work proceeds below, but it still needs to be funded.

‘It’s been four years and nobody wants to pay the £163m bill for the Boat Race landmark’ writes Nicholas Hellen.

The Government announced a task force in 2020, with Grant Shapps blaming “a lack of leadership in London” for the lack of action on the bridge. He promised speedy action:

“We’ll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that’ll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business.”

He said the cost should be split three ways, between the Department of Transport, Transport for London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

‘That is a recipe for inaction’ writes Nicholas Hellen, ‘the council says it does not have the money and could pay its one-third share only if it was allowed to impose a toll’.

Image above: Hammersmith Bridge

“An absolutely classic parable of our times” – Professor Tony Travers

The Sunday Times‘ Transport editor spoke to Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, who described the standoff between central and local government as: “an absolutely classic parable of our times.

“The bridge is easily repairable and runs across one of the most productive parts of the United Kingdom.

“The cost-benefit ratio for the UK economy is substantially better than a whole range of other projects. Yet three levels of government in one of the richest countries in the world can’t rebuild and reopen a bridge in an important part of the capital city.”

He thinks the Government does not want to be seen to be helping out what is perceived to be an affluent part of London while it is committed to its ‘Levelling up’ policy.

The Council says it is in no way equipped to cope with costs of this magnitude and points to other similar projects around the UK where central government is stumping up for the lion’s share.

The Department for Transport is paying 94% of the cost of the Chetwynd Bridge upgrade in Staffordshire and 91% of the cost of repairing Cleveland Bridge, the grade II listed bridge over the River Avon, it says.

Image above: Image above: Hammersmith Bridge double-decker proposal; Foster & Partners

Drop-in sessions to view Foster & Partners’ plans

The idea of a temporary double decker bridge, put forward by H&F Council with architects and engineers from Foster & Partners and COWI, is on display to the public at a series of drop-in events, the first of which was on Saturday. There is one at St Paul’s Centre, Queen Caroline Street in Hammersmith on Monday March 27 from 4.00pm till 8.00pm.

Two further sessions are being held south of the river at St Paul’s School, Lonsdale Road, Barnes on Tuesday 28 March from 4.00pm till 8.00pm and Saturday April 1 from 11.00am till 2.00pm.

As well as viewing the plans, visitors will be able to discuss them with those in charge of the bridge’s restoration.

LB Hammersmith & Fulham is at the beginning of the planning consultation for this scheme. It needs to get it past the Planning Committee and to have the support of Historic England for the temporary bridge to go ahead.

Only then will they be able to finalise an accurate costing to put to the Department of Transport. If it gets their sign-off on the basis of sharing costs three ways, it will then need legislation for the final sign-off.

Meanwhile LB Hammersmith & Fulham say they are making “massive progress” on stabilizing the bridge. Some 1200 custom made steel supports have been added. They are hoping to complete the stabilization and resurface the bridge to reopen it fully to pedestrians and cyclists later this year.

At the moment pedestrians and cyclists walking their bikes can only use the walkways at the sides of the bridge while work continues on the main carriageway. Opening the bridge to vehicular traffic is still some 18 months – two years off, say the Council.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Clean sweep for Cambridge in the Boat Race

See also: Council holds drop-in sessions to explain Hammersmith Bridge proposals

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