Radical new plans for temporary crossing over Hammersmith Bridge

Image above: Foster & Partners Hammersmith Bridge proposal

Leading architects and engineers Foster + Partners, Sir John Ritblat FRICS of Delancey and LB Hammersmith & Fulham have unveiled a radical new proposal for a temporary crossing over Hammersmith Bridge. The plan, which was unveiled on 26 November, would provide a two-tiered crossing, raised above the existing road deck, which would allow vehicles to cross the River Thames without putting stress on the bridge. The temporary crossing would allow restoration to go ahead unhindered on the original Victorian structure.

The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in April 2019 because of cracks in the metal and closed completely in August 2020 when the summer heat was found to have expanded the cracks.

Under the proposal, LB Hammersmith & Fulham says pedestrians, cyclists and, potentially, motor vehicles could be using the bridge, with river traffic passing underneath, within a year of a contractor being appointed. A new raised truss structure would be built above the existing road deck featuring a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists and an upper level for cars and buses.

Image above: Foster & Partners Hammersmith Bridge proposal

Meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ‘positive’

Sir John Ritblat, representing Delancy, approached Foster + Partners to develop an alternative plan for the bridge after Stephen Cowan asked for Sir John’s assistance following the bridge’s closure in August. Sir John is a property developer. He is chairman of the advisory board of Delancey, the property and asset-backed investment firm founded in 1995 by his son Jamie Ritblat. He is also honorary president (and formerly chairman and CEO) of The British Land Company PLC, the FTSE100 London-based property company from which he retired as chairman in 2006.

Foster & Partners is Sir Norman Foster’s global studio for sustainable architecture, engineering, urbanism and industrial design. Their worldwide reputation is based on such buildings as the Bund Finance Centre in Shanghai, the Supreme Court in Singapore, the Reichstag New German Parliament in Berlin and the Great Court at the British Museum. Their transport projects include the Jeddah Metro in Saudi Arabia and the Ocean Terminal extension in Hong Kong.

H&F Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan outlined details of the proposed plan to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday 25 November and urged the government to give it full consideration. The concept plan designed by Foster + Partners and further developed with specialist bridge engineers COWI, was presented to Department of Transport officials on 26 November.

A Hammersmith Bridge Task Force was set up earlier this year to bring together LB Hammersmith & Fulham, LB Richmond, Transport for London the Port of London Authority and the Department of Transport to find a way through the stalemate over who would pay for repairs to the bridge and how the work should be carried out. Chairman Baroness Vere commented on Friday 27 November that the meeting between Cllr Cowan and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had been ‘positive’ but did not comment further on the proposal.

Image above: Foster & Partners Hammersmith Bridge proposal

Cost lower than existing plan

Hammersmith & Fulham Council says the Initial estimates suggest the temporary crossing would allow the strengthening and stabilisation works to the 133-year-old heritage bridge to be completed at a cost lower than the current £141million estimate.

The raised deck would enable existing approach routes for traffic to be used, causing minimum disruption for residents on both banks of the river. The structure will also provide support for the bridge as well as a safe platform for restoration work to be carried out.

There would be no load added to the existing bridge deck which would be removed in stages for repair. Contractors would use the new lower pedestrian deck to access the works. When completed, the temporary raised deck would be removed.

Elements of the Grade II* listed bridge that need repair, including pedestals, anchors and chains, would be lifted away using the temporary bridge and transported by barges to an off-site facility for safe repair and restoration.

By repairing the bridge off-site, the huge task of restoration can be done at greater speed, to a higher level and at significantly reduced cost. It would also minimise noise, environmental impact and onsite activity, as well as reducing the all-important carbon footprint of the works.

Historic England approval would need to be sought for this scheme which enables the bridge to be restored to its original Victorian splendour with fewer constraints.

Cllr Cowan said: “I am extremely grateful to Sir John Ritblat for responding to our call for help so comprehensively. The Foster + Partners and the COWI design team have developed an exciting and imaginative initiative which has the very strong possibility of providing a quicker and better value solution than any of the other proposals.

“Our engineers have held positive and constructive talks with Foster + Partners and COWI. I am optimistic that we now have a viable option within our grasp that is a win for all. I commend it to the Government in the hope that it will be the catalyst for real progress in funding all the necessary works to the bridge.

“We have been exploring a variety of options since the initial closure to motor traffic in 2019 and now have a proposal which potentially meets our objectives of a fast track, lower cost, lower noise, lower emission solution that would lead to an earlier reopening of the bridge.

“I was pleased to be able to deliver the news of the project to the Secretary of State yesterday and look forward to working with his Taskforce to find a solution that works for everyone impacted by the bridge’s closure.”

Luke Fox, Senior Executive Partner at Foster + Partners, said: “We are excited to propose this simple and sustainable solution to this important missing piece of London’s infrastructure that also gives the opportunity to bring back to life a beautiful and iconic bridge by Sir Joseph Bazalgette.”

Roger Ridsdill Smith, head of Structural Engineering at Foster + Partners, said: “We believe that our concept resolves the two challenges for Hammersmith Bridge economically and efficiently: delivering a temporary crossing quickly, whilst providing a safe support to access and refurbish the existing bridge. We appreciate the engagement and contribution from the technical experts in charge of the bridge and look forward to further studies to develop the scheme.”

David MacKenzie, Executive Director at COWI, said: “We consider that this approach is practical and viable. Our experience is that offsite refurbishment of bridge structures is safer and more controlled, and results in a higher quality final outcome when the structure is re-installed.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: More than six years before Hammersmith Bridge could reopen to vehicles

See also: Government setting up task force to restore Hammersmith Bridge

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