Hammersmith Bridge was lit up in red on Sunday (14 February), in an attempt to raise publicity about the “appalling situation” regarding the bridge’s ongoing closure.
The stunt was organised by Hammersmith Bridge SOS, a group of local residents who say they have been “drastically affected” by the bridge’s closure. They are pushing to secure a crossing over the Thames as soon as possible.
Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to all traffic including pedestrians since 13 August 2020 and was closed to vehicular traffic in April 2019. Tens of thousands of people are having to make long and “torturous” detours to access vital services they had been able to use easily before the closure, such as schools, hospitals, GPs, the tube and central London, according to the residents’ group.
They say some children are enduring very long commutes to get to school in the dark on unsuitable footpaths and elderly people and workers are suffering much longer journeys to go about their daily business. The bridge closure has also had a serious impact on local businesses, they say; many already under strain from the pandemic.
Residents are “fed up and angry”
Helen Pennant Rea, Chair of the Hammersmith Bridge SOS Group, said:
“It is a great shame that we need to raise further attention to the complete inability of politicians from all parties to find a satisfactory solution, to proceed with the funding and works to repair Hammersmith Bridge.
“Our Valentine’s card is intended to be a fun way to draw attention to what remains a serious issue. The Bridge closure is a real problem for people, businesses and local lives in general. We very much hope our message will get through to the politicians concerned that SW London is fed up and angry of waiting for progress and results to no avail.
“We have become an international laughing stock with national media outlets in other major countries reporting their disbelief that such a relatively wealthy and advanced country as Britain can fail so comprehensively to repair a key bridge in their capital. We all know that in many other countries the bridge would have been repaired or replaced many months ago.”
Below is a YouTube video made by the Hammersmith Bridge SOS residents group of the stunt:
The Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce was set up by the Department for Transport in September 2020 to work towards safely reopening Hammersmith Bridge. The Taskforce is chaired by Baroness Vere and includes representatives from Transport for London, LB Hammersmith and Fulham, LB Richmond upon Thames, Network Rail, the Greater London Authority and the Port of London Authority.
The various parties continue to argue over who should pay to repair the bridge, shifting blame between the various political parties and authorities. In sixth months since its total closure, there are still no funds agreed upon, nor is there a concensus on a way forward.
After the most recent meeting of the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce on 4 February 2021, speaking for the taskforce, Dana Skelley said:
“Department for Transport was grateful to have received the most recent business case for the bridge repair from Transport for London on 29 January, but it was accepted that a final and comprehensive case cannot be produced while other options are still under consideration and while DfT awaits further detail from LB Hammersmith & Fulham on the financial case”.
LB Hammersmith & Fulham told The Chiswick Calendar:
“H&F sympathises with all bridge users and is determined to help get it repaired and reopened as soon as possible. We have submitted multiple plans to the DfT to enable this to happen.”
Ferry crossing plans to be released “within weeks”
Dana Skelley said there should be news soon about the suggestion of a ferry crossing, which could be introduced much more quickly than repairs to the bridge.
The three shortlisted bidders for running a temporary ferry service will also be revealed “in the next few weeks”. The taskforce previously said it was aiming to start the ferry crossings in the spring.
The timing for services beginning will depend on the winning bidder’s proposals, though the need to have the ferry running as soon as possible is universally recognised.
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