Over one month has passed since the emergency closure of Hammersmith Bridge and both Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Mayor continue to play the political blame game. H&F Council and TfL have had a “final report” on repair options for Hammersmith Bridge from their engineering consultants since the end of 2018. No plan to carry out the major works needed to reopen Hammersmith Bridge to cars and buses has yet been announced.
If I were the directly-elected Mayor, I would borrow the money to fix Hammersmith Bridge and set the borrowings against a road user charge for both buses and cars if TfL refused to stump up their fair share. The GLA Act allows both boroughs and the Mayor to levy road user charges.
I would look at two options:
- Full repair and restoration: Strengthen and repair of the existing bridge (and still maintain its listed status) so it could take modern transport. This would last 2-3 years and may only give the bridge an extra 30 years lifespan.
- Modification: Replacement with an independent structural deck. This has been done in the past when the steels of Hammersmith Bridge were rebuilt and deck replaced as part of the 1973 refurbishment. This would take the same length of time as the full repair and restoration option and could give the bridge an extra 60 years lifespan. The costs would be similar according to bridge architectural experts.
The toll would only be in the order of 50p for someone to cross the bridge by car for H&F Council to fund and then recoup the costs (this assumes 20,000 vehicles a day for 300 days – 6 million vehicle movements). For comparison a toll bridge in Bath charges 80p and Clifton suspension bridge charges £1. Hammersmith Bridge was a toll bridge originally.
Who is responsible for the Hammersmith Bridge omnishambles? Here is my view:
- H&F Labour Council have not done their bit in properly maintaining the bridge and have lost the expert officer expertise since the collapse of Triborough and Biborough collaboration.
- H&F Labour Council’s political leadership have not made the reopening the bridge to cars and buses a political priority. The council do not care about the traffic gridlock in west London but see it as a way of stopping cars coming into their brough and making Hammersmith Bridge open only to pedestrians and cyclists.
- The Mayor of London has bankrupted TfL so that TfL cannot afford to pay for infrastructure works included the major works needed to reopen the bridge.