Hammersmith Bridge wrapped in foil to protect it from the heat

Image above: Hammersmith Bridge wrapped in foil; photograph LB Hammersmith & Fulham 

Engineers get creative to protect bridge as first ever Red warning for extreme heat is issued

Parts of Hammersmith Bridge have been wrapped in reflective material to protect it from the extreme heat. The first ever Red warning for extreme heat has been issued as temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees in London next week.

The Met Office warned of an “exceptional hot spell on Monday and Tuesday leading to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure”.

LB Hammersmith & Fulham say engineers are working ’round the clock’ to keep 135-year-old Hammersmith Bridge open during the extreme hot spell.

The historic Grade II* listed bridge had to be fully closed in August 2020 when micro-fractures in its cast-iron pedestals widened during a heatwave.

Since then the Council has installed a ‘pioneering’ £420,000 temperature control system to keep the bridge at a safe temperature and alleviate any stresses on the pedestals.

“The successful operation of the system was a key factor in the decision by safety experts to allow the bridge to reopen to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic last July” say the Council.

“It effectively acts as a giant air conditioning unit on each of the four pedestal chains.”

The chains, which are anchored to the river bed, are regulated to be kept under 13C in the summer. If any of them reach 18C, safety engineers will shut the bridge.

Image above: Met office weather map for Monday 18 July

With the Met Office warning about next week’s temperatures, engineers have been working on an extra package of measures to keep the bridge chains cool which includes running the cooling system throughout the night and wrapping the parts of the chains that are above the water level in silver insulation foil which reflects the sun.

“The safety of the public is our first priority,” said Sebastian Springer, Arcadis Project Manager on the bridge works.

“The temperature control system allows us to track weather spikes and maintain a constant temperature. As we deal with the current extreme heat, we are also coming up with innovative solutions to keep the temperature within the threshold.”

If temperatures exceed expectations and the temperature threshold is breached, engineers state that the bridge would have to close on public safety grounds, but they say any closure would likely be only temporary until the heat subsides.

The first phase £8.9m works currently taking place on the bridge involves stabilising the micro-fractures in the pedestals to prevent the threat of future closures in extreme high and low temperatures.

Hammersmith Bridge, built-in 1887, is one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges which is why it is also one of Britain’s most expensive to repair. It is a Grade II* listed structure made out of wood and wrought iron with the suspension held in place by cast iron pedestals. It is part of Britain’s engineering heritage and a national landmark.

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