Hammersmith Bridge: some stabilisation works completed as row erupts over toll charge

Image above: stabilisation works on Hammersmith Bridge

Work progressing as planned on bridge’s stabilisation

A key stage was completed this week in the repairs to Hammersmith Bridge, with the strengthening of the bridge’s four pedestals.

The four cast-iron pedestals, one on each corner of the 135-year-old bridge, needed reinforcing to address fractures in the structure, which have seen it closed to vehicles since summer 2020.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s team of engineers planned, trialled and designed the stabilisation programme off-site, using a replica pedestal. They were able to maintain the pedestals’ exterior appearance by pouring concrete inside their hollow centres, rather than altering the look of the Grade II* listed bridge.

This was particularly difficult because concrete normally reaches a high temperature when it sets. The cast iron pedestals are vulnerable to the stresses that heat causes, so engineers used a special low carbon material to keep the concrete’s curing heat low.

The next step for the pedestals is to inject grout into the top of each and attach temporary steel plates, which will provide extra support. Then steel reinforcements will be mounted to the points, or saddles, where the bridge’s chains are attached.

H&F Council said stabilisation work has been completed with the ‘minimal possible impact’ on pedestrians and cyclists using the bridge, which has remained open throughout.

Image above: ‘exploded’ designs for temporary two-tier Hammersmith Bridge

Row over proposed toll-charge simmering

Image: Cllr Steffi Sutters

Meanwhile, Tory councillors have attacked the council’s plans to charge drivers £3 to use Hammersmith Bridge, claiming it will be “sad” for drivers hit by the cost-of-living crisis.

Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council proposes to introduce a toll charge once the bridge reopens, arguing it is the best option financially and for the environment, with £8.9 million alone spent on stabilising micro-fractures in the pedestals.

A two-tier crossing could is being considered temporarily above the historic landmark bridge to allow cars and walkers to cross the River Thames while repairs are ongoing, complete with a toll gate.

But Conservative councillors for Wandsworth want Hammersmith and Fulham Council to axe the proposed toll charge. A petition to stop the charge has been launched by Wandsworth Conservatives, who claim the closure of the bridge in 2019 has put extra pressure on busy roads such as Upper Richmond Road, Putney Hill and Putney High Street.

The Conservative representative of West Putney, Cllr Steffi Sutters, said:

“Labour has run Hammersmith Council for many years and failed to keep the bridge in good condition leading to its closure in 2019. It is sad that during a cost-of-living crisis they feel justified in proposing a £3 per crossing charge which will doubtlessly most impact those who can least afford it.”

H&F defend toll charge and blame lack of central Government funding

Image: Cllr Stephen Cowan 

Hammersmith and Fulham’s cabinet member for public real Sharon Holder said:

“Hammersmith Bridge is a historic Grade II listed bridge. It’s vastly more expensive than any other London bridge to fix. It’s one of the most expensive bridges to repair in Britain.

“If Putney Conservatives cared about the people of Putney they would be lobbying the Conservative government to pay for the £163m bridge rather than playing cheap politics. It’s insightful they’ve chosen cheap politics.”

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s leader Stephen Cowan previously said a toll charge would be the “greener and safest way” of moving ahead with the plans, which have been put forward to central government.

He added: “It would charge the users of the bridge and therefore bring about the cost being to the people who most benefit from it.”

The council’s cabinet agreed a procurement plan for the full restoration of the bridge, which is expected to cost £130 million in total, on October 10. Councillors also agreed to spend £5 million on the next phase of engineering works. Two-thirds of the funds are expected to come from Transport for London and the Department for Transport.

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