The Budget by George Osborne last year saw specific encouragement for the Flyunder project with the offer of funding. Zac Goldsmith made clear his strong support. Sadiq Khan claimed to back the proposal as well – as did the Labour leadership of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. But what are they doing about it?
Making it a reality will be a huge challenge. There needs to be determination. It won’t just happen of its own accord. The impression I get is that the Council and the Mayor are not even trying.
Recently I asked the Council:
“Please provide a list of all meetings in the past year undertaken by H&F councillors and council officers regarding the flyunder proposal – with dates, details of those attending an any minutes that were taken.
Please include any meetings with the Mayor of London and his predecessor and their staff and TFL officials.
Please include any meetings of the Joint Programme Board and the Joint Delivery Group.”
They wouldn’t answer me so I put it in as an FOI request. They are still prevaricating. But I fear their obfuscation may be paradoxically illuminating. I suspect they have done diddly squat. If they were making a serious effort why not say so?
Overwhelmingly the residents I represent welcome the idea of replacing the Hammersmith Flyover – and a stretch of the A4 extending to the Hogarth Roundabout – with a tunnel, a “Flyunder.” Three years ago under a Conservative administration this was a priority for Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Initial viability work by the Council
We estimated the construction time would take between two and three years – the disruption to the A4 involving line closure would be 12 to 18 months.
The cost of a Flyunder, if it had North End Road as the “eastern portal” was estimated at £1.12bn. However our report also found that “rent estimates indicate that redevelopment could achieve in the order of £1billion some of which could form part of the flyunder financing package.” Also that redevelopment could provide opportunities for new and improved open space as well as “better, more pedestrian and cycle-friendly connections between Hammersmith and the River Thames” and “opportunities to unravel the Hammersmith Gyratory through the
provision of a relief road on the current alignment of the A4. ”
The then council leader Nick Botterill said the Hammersmith Flyover is an “elevated concrete monster that has divided our town centre for decades – magnifying traffic noise and polluting our air in the process.”
Potentially the prize would not merely be removing this eyesore but also putting a stretch of the A4 underground. That would mean restoring the old street patterns. Furnivall Gardens could be restored to its full size going right up to the Town Hall. Streets such as Rivercourt Road, Weltje Road, Black Lion Lane, Verbena Gardens and Eyot Gardens that were ripped apart in 1955 could be restored.
It is important that one type of ugliness is not replaced with another. The acres of land released should be used to restore the beautiful style housing that was there before.
They are hard at work replacing a viaduct with a tunnel in Seattle at the moment. It’s happened in Madrid, Seoul, San Francisco and Milwaukee. The New York Times reports:
“All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of
thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.”
Technological change offers the chance to restore the beauty of the past. That way the kind Hammersmith that are parents knew could be the Hammersmith that our children will have the chance to see.
President Kennedy said:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Building the Flyunder would be hard – even with the offer from central Government of helping with the funding. But it can be done. It would mean the chance for more housing, better transport, cleaner air and a more beautiful borough. Mayor Khan and the Labour council leaders in H&F just don’t show the determination needed.