Sadiq Khan has urged government ministers to “put their money where their mouth is” following the announcement by transport secretary Grant Shapps that a task force is to be set up to get the stricken Hammersmith Bridge reopened.
Shapps claimed today that there has been “a lack of leadership in London” over resolving the problems with the bridge, which was closed to motor traffic in April 2019 and in August was closed to cyclists and pedestrians too after hot weather further widened cracks.
In a crisp response to the announcement, the Mayor said Londoners “do not need another talking shop that will lead to more delay and disruption” and told the government it must provide the necessary funds, as neither the bridge’s owner Hammersmith & Fulham Council nor Transport for London have the possible £140 million to effect full repairs.
City Hall protests that TfL and the Greater London Authority have made three separate bids to the government for Hammersmith Bridge funding, with one being rejected and the others being “ignored”.
TfL has prepared plans for a temporary walking and cycling bridge to be installed, but funding for fixing the main bridge, which was opened in 1887, has to be secured before permission for the temporary bridge can be given. City Hall says work done by TfL so far and costs incurred by Hammersmith & Fulham already total £16.7 million so far.
The handling of the bridge repairs has produced terse exchanges between local MPs, with Conservative Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham) claiming that a letter from a minister to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) about the temporary bridge plan showed a lack of urgency on the part of Mayor Khan and TfL. Labour’s Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) accused Hands of making finding a solution more difficult by “playing politics”.
The Mayor said on 8 June that TfL had been making “good progress in preparing planning applications for the temporary bridge, albeit at a slower pace than was previously anticipated due to coronavirus” and hoped to submit them in the middle of that June so that could be considered “in mid-September”. He added that expenditure on the temporary bridge was subject to TfL’s ongoing discussions with the department for transport over further funding after the May bailout package runs out.
On 10 December 2019, shortly before his defeat by Olney at the general election, the then Tory MP for Richmond Park, Zac Goldsmith, appeared in a video with Shapps beside the bridge claiming “I have secured Govt support – including the necessary funds – for a temporary bridge”. Shapps said he would “put some money in” to “get it done quickly” because Hammersmith bridge is “too important to London”.
The bridge, which was designed by Sir Jospeh Bazalgette, was refurbished in 1973 and had further work done on it in 1984. It was closed to cars and vans in 1997 for essential maintenance work and closed again for repairs in 2014. Further strengthening work was delayed in November 2016 amid disagreements between Hammersmith & Fulham and TfL. The bridge was listed Grade II in 2008.
Photograph by Andy Muller.
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