Department of Transport engineers to take over management of repairs
Picture: Owen Sheppard
The government has announced it will set up a “taskforce” to oversee the restoration of Hammersmith Bridge.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this Wednesday, 9 September, said: “When it comes to the Hammersmith Bridge there has been a lack of leadership in London on re-opening this vital bridge.
“It’s stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys.
“We won’t let hard-working Londoners suffer any longer – the government is setting up a taskforce to establish the next steps in opening the bridge as speedily as possible.
“We’ll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that’ll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business.”
A priority for the taskforce will be to ensure that the 133-year-old bridge can be reopened to cyclists and pedestrians “at a minimum”.
It comes after months of arguments about who should pay for the bridge’s expensive repair bill, estimated to be more than £140 million.
The government’s announcement did not confirm how much money it will contribute, although it said the Department for Transport will commission its own engineers to take over the project.
Since the bridge closed in April last year, TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which owns the bridge, had urged the Government to stump up the cash.
The row intensified last month when the crossing was closed to cyclists and pedestrians, after it emerged that the spell of 34C temperatures caused cracks in its structure to widen.
The grade II*-listed bridge closed in April last year when microfractures were discovered in its iron pedestals.
The council said the cracks, which could cause the pedestals to shatter, were discovered during a structural survey – the first which had been commissioned for over a decade.
Last week the leaders of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Richmond Council wrote a joint letter to Boris Johnson asking him to intervene and provide funding.
They wrote: “The estimated cost of the bridge stabilisation works, simply to make the bridge safe and avoid a potential catastrophic failure, is £46 million,” the letter states.
“No local authority has that kind of money available. We therefore write to ask that the government funds this work as a matter of urgency.”
The taskforce will be led by Baroness Vere of Norbiton.
Owen Sheppard- Local Democracy Reporter
September 9, 2020